Searching PubMed Tutorial

Open Library Web Page

in another browser window to work through this tutorial side by side.


1 of 2

This guide will walk you step-by-step through searching for citations in PubMed. Follow the instructions on this panel to navigate through PubMed on the browser.

Once you've followed the instructions on this panel, click the arrow at the bottom of the page to move on to the next panel.

PubMed is a free citation database made available by the National Library of Medicine, a National Institute of Health. In PubMed, you will find citations and abstracts in the fields of: 

  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Health Care Systems
  • Preclinical Sciences

You must navigate to PubMed through the UNTHSC Library web page in order to download full-text articles from their citation and abstract in PubMed.


2 of 2

Locate the "Find" tab on the Lewis Library website home page.

Make sure "Databases and Articles" is selected on the left-hand tabs.

From the drop down menu under "Select a database," select PubMed and hit "Go."

*Note* If you are off-campus, you may be asked to log in using your UNTHSC EID and password.

Database dropdown menu w/pubmed selected


This is the PubMed home page. The default search box is located at the top of the page. Notice that there is an “Advanced” search option beneath the default search box.

Let’s say you’re looking for literature on how to treat shin splints. We can build a search using keywords and filters to help us locate articles in the Lewis Library collection.

shin splints search box

Type “shin splints” into the search box and hit “search.” You should be taken to a list of PubMed search results. How many citations do you have? 

Narrowing the Search

You probably have retrieved more results than you would like to manually sort through.

Modify your search at the top of the page to search for “shin splints AND therapy.” Click search again to re-run it.

You should have significantly fewer results by adding a second search term, using the AND connector.

Broadening the Search

Alternately, you could broaden your list of search results by using OR.

Clear your search by clicking the grey “X” on the search bar, and start a new search for:

“shin splints AND (therapy OR treatment)”

How many results do we have now?

By using OR to search for articles that refer to therapy or treatment, we have increased our number of results. Just like simple math we learned in high school, the OR statement must be connected to the first search term by using parentheses.

(To see why that’s important, try removing the parentheses and searching PubMed for “shin splints AND therapy OR treatment. You should receive over 1 million results, because you have now told PubMed to search for articles relating to therapy for shin splints, in addition to every record that uses the keyword “treatment.”)

Applying Filters

1 of 3Make sure your search box reads “shin splints AND (therapy OR treatment).”

We can further narrow our PubMed search by applying filters. Filters add search terms to narrow your results.
Filters appear on the left hand of your results. By default, you should see filter categories for:

• Article Types
• Text availability
• PubMed Commons
• Publication dates
• Species

Applying Filters

2 of 3At the bottom of the filter menu, select “show additional filters.”

show additional filters

Select “languages” and “ages” and hit “show,” to add them to your filter menu. You can now filter results using those categories.

You can also customize certain filter categories. Under the Article types filter, select “Customize.” You now see the full list of article types available in PubMed.

customize article types


  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

You have now added them to your Article types Filter.

Applying Filters

3 of 3Now, apply filters to your results by clicking once on:

  • Clinical Trial (under Article Types)
  • Randomized Controlled Trial (under Article types)
  • 10 years (under Publication dates)
  • Adult: 19+ years (under Ages)

How many search results do you see now? It should be significantly less than our original search results.

To remove your filters, simply click on the applied filter again to remove the check mark, or select “Clear all” at the bottom of the filter menu.

Understanding Search Results

Now that we’ve built our search string and applied filters, it’s time to view and save our results.

The search results page contains a quick view of your citations, including the title, publication date, and journal of publication.

Locate the “Sort by” tab at the top of the page. This menu allows you to change the way your search results are sorted.

Be sure that your results are sorted by "Most Recent."

Locate the “Search details” box on the right hand of the page. Notice that PubMed has taken your search string and applied additional search terms to the search, without the searcher having to do anything.

search details box

Change your results to be sorted by "Best Match."


Now see that the Search Details box has become "Best Match" and is displaying only MeSH terms. You will learn about this and MeSH terms in another guide.

Click the blue title of your first search result. You are now seeing the full record view for that article.

Individual Record

1 of 2Notice the information about the article has now expanded to include an abstract (when available) and full author information.

Beneath the abstract, locate the PMID number for this article. (Note: you may have selected a different article than the one pictured below).


The PMID is the unique identifier for this article. If you were to copy and paste that article into the search results box, it would take you directly back to this record. Each article entry in PubMed has their own PMID number.

Individual Record

2 of 2Expand the “Publication Types, MeSH Terms, Grant Support” drop down menu by clicking on the title to view further information about this article.

MeSH menu

Here you see the publication types and MeSH terms applied to this record. MeSH (or Medical Subject Headings), are terms used to describe the content within the article. You’ll learn more about MeSH headings in another guide.

Click any MeSH heading once to view the “Actions” menu that appears.

MeSH actions

Once you’ve found an article that fits your research needs, you can build a new search using the MeSH headings applied to that article to expand your search.

Retrieving Full Text Articles

Scroll up to the top of the page and click the green “Find Full Text” button.

find full text

You have now searched the Lewis Library collection for the article. If we have a copy available, you should see a green “Article Full Text” button. Click on the button to be taken to a PDF copy of the article.

If we do not have a copy of the article available, you should see a link to “Request item.” Follow that link to place an inter-library loan request.

Saving and Exporting Search Results

Go back to your article record in PubMed.

Locate the "Send to" drop down menu on the top right hand corner of the screen.

Send To

You can send the citation information for this article to your email or citation manager. Or, if you have created an NCBI account, you can send the article information your files or collections.

*Note: If you do a lot of literature searching in PubMed, it would be a good idea to create an NCBI account or download citation management software. Contact the library for help getting started.

That's it, you did it!

You just completed a literature search in PubMed.

Library Research Services is here if you need any help finding literature or have any questions about this guide.

Contact us M-F, 8am to 5pm at (817) 735-2070 or at

Advance to the next slide to download your certificate of completion.

Please complete a brief, 2-3 minute survey on your experience using this tutorial:


Please enter your name and email address to retrieve a copy of your completed quiz.

You can enter multiple email addresses separated by commas. If you are doing this for a class, you may need to enter your instructor's email address also.


What did you think of this tutorial?