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PubMed Help for UC Berkeley Users

PubMed, from the US National Library of Medicine (NLM, part of NIH), is the primary database for research on most public health topics.
PubMed consists of Medline, OLDMEDLINE (some pre-1966 citations), and more, including full runs of several key journals back to Volume one.

PubMed includes links to online full text:

UC-eLinks   UC e-Links: Access the article online (if available); link to UC Library catalog record (to get print version if not online); or use Request, a service of Interlibrary Borrowing Services (to get articles from journals not at a UCB library).
PubMed Central icon   Publisher and other icons may also lead you to the full text of articles.

Top Tips for a Successful PubMed Search:

  1. Combine terms with AND or OR
     » asthma AND (tobacco OR smoking)
  2. Use Filters
     » Filters include ages, publication type, language, ...
  3. Search for your term as a word in the title or title or abstract (using Filters)
  4. Use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), with subheadings
  5. Try PubMed's Clinical Queries or Topic-Specific Queries
     » Clinical Queries = "evidence-based medicine" searches
     » Topic-Specific Queries: Health Disparities, Comparative Effectiveness, Health Services Research, and many more
  6. Use the Related Citations link, once you find highly relevant citations
  7. Use the Grant Number and [gr] tag, e.g., ca101211[gr] to search for an individual NIH grant

UC Berkeley Guides to Using PubMed

Instruction: For instruction on PubMed or any topic, if you can gather a group of at least 5, make an appointment with one of our librarians at the reference desk, or call (510) 642-2511.

Online Tutorials

More PubMed Help

Crib Sheets

Other NLM Resources

Tips for Finding relevant MeSH Terms

(Adapted from Feddern T., Tips for Finding Relevant MeSH Terms.)

If your term or concept won't "map" to a MeSH term, try the following:

  1. Search for your term in the title field: yourterm[ti]. If the word is in the article title, a relevant MeSH term should be listed in the "Abstract" display. Try this with several articles to get a list of likely MeSH terms. Also use British spellings of title words, if necessary.
  2. You can expand this to include words in the title and/or abstract: yourterm[tiab].
  3. When you find possible MeSH terms to use, look them up in the MeSH Database. See where they appear on the Tree (hierarchy). Use broader or narrower terms as seen on the Tree, if appropriate.
  4. If you have any known relevant articles on your concept, find them in PubMed (use Single Citation Matcher), and look up the MeSH terms for this/these articles.
  5. Remember the difference between the infection and the agent/organism causing it. For example, are you interested in HIV (the virus) or HIV infections? Similarly, don't confuse a symptom with a disease: Depression versus Depressive Disorder; or a medical specialty with a disease, condition, or intervention: Preventive Medicine versus Preventive Health Services; Pulmonary Medicine versus Lung Diseases.
  6. Similarly, the MeSH term "epidemiology" is for the field of study. Use the epidemiology subheading to find citations on this aspect of a disease or condition.
  7. Drugs and substances can be classified under several different broader headings or classes. When you find a drug or substance in MeSH, it is important to look at where it appears on the Tree(s). You may need to broaden or narrow your search to get the best article citations for your topic. For example, are you interested in DDT, or all chlorinated hydrocarbons? Items listed as a substance may also have relevant MeSH terms. Eexample: ddt[Mesh] OR alpha-chloro-DDT [Substance Name] OR DDT-dehydrochlorinase [Substance Name], etc.

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