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Finding clinical and scientific literature (transition skills): PubMed

PubMed

Search thousands of medicine and life science journals simultaneously.

Databases (properly known as bibliographic databases) are search engines that enable you to search multiple journals at once, rather than having to access and search lots of journal and publisher platforms individually.

Learning to use databases is an essential skill for carrying out literature searches, such as scoping and systematic reviews.

Many databases are premium resources i.e. to use them, you must belong to an organisation such as a university or NHS Trust that has paid for an institutional subscription.

However, some databases are available for free, and can be filtered to limit results to open access (i.e. free full text) content only.

One such database is PubMed, which is maintained by the US National Library of Medicine, and indexes thousands of journals and other sources covering medicine and life science topics.

To access PubMed, Google it or click the link below:

Before using PubMed, plan your search by following the steps on the Search tips page of this LibGuide. However, to search for phrases in PubMed, do not put them in quotation marks. Instead, hyphenate words to ensure that PubMed searches for the exact phrase. For example:

smoking AND risk-factor AND cardiovascular-disease

Screenshot of PubMed, with a search query in the search box

Screenshot of the PubMed search box, with search terms entered 


PubMed searches often return huge numbers of results, which will be a mixture of premium and open access journal content.

To limit results to free i.e. open access content only, tick the Free full text box under Text Availability in the filters column on the left side of the screen.

Screenshot of the Free full text link on the PubMed results page

Screenshot of PubMed's Free full text filter


Other useful filters are available, such as Article Type, Publication Date, Language and Age. Ticking these will reduce the number of results, hopefully making it more manageable. You may need to click on Additional filters to select and display all the filters that you wish to use.

Screenshot of the PubMed filter list, with the Additional filters button highlighted

Screenshot of the PubMed filter list, with the Additional filters button highlighted


Click on a result to view its full PubMed record, where you can click free full text link(s) to download and keep the article PDF (these links may take you out of PubMed to external journal or publisher websites).

Screenshot of an open access article's PubMed record, with free PDF full text links highlighted

Screenshot of an open access article's PubMed record, with free PDF full text links highlighted