Key Facts Every Researcher Should Know About PubMed
Scientific Discovery Series – Part Two: In our previous blog post we explained why it’s so important for scientific researchers to choose their discovery channels wisely—and to understand how they work.
But with hundreds of discovery channels to choose from, and more than 50 million scholarly articles currently published online, that’s easier said than done.
If you’re a scientific researcher, we invite you to follow this blog series.
Moving forward, we will take a peek under the hood of some of the most popular scientific discovery portals—sharing key facts, tips, and insights to help set you on your way.
In a nutshell: Maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed is a free search engine focused on biomedical
content discovery. As of March 2018, PubMed contained more than 28 million citations from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. MEDLINE is a bibliographic database for life sciences and biomedical information maintained by NLM. It currently indexes citations from 5,200 journals in 40 languages. PubMed is the premier go-to research portal for any type of medical research.
Medical thesaurus: PubMed retrieves results using NLM’s Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), which you can leverage to improve your search. Here are two things to know:
- You can use the MeSH Database to look up the MeSH term for a concept you’re researching. Once you know the preferred heading, you can search for MeSH subheadings (simply type the MeSH term into the search box and select “MeSH” from the dropdown menu)—and then use the subheads to refine your search.
- Many MeSH terms are cross-referenced with synonyms and other closely related terms, called “Entry Terms.” If you search with an Entry Term, PubMed will retrieve citations for the MeSH term as well.
Timesaving feature: PubMed’s “Similar articles” feature is fairly self-explanatory – and really nice. If you find a citation that you like, you simply click the “Similar articles” link to find articles that are similar. Articles are matched through an algorithm that compares words from the citation’s title and abstract, along with the assigned MeSH terms.
Filters: When you add filters to a search, they will remain throughout your entire session. At times, this can be helpful. But if you start a new search and don’t want the same filters, you must remember to clear them. It’s also important to note that effective April 2018, custom search filters are now limited to 4,000 characters. In addition, asterisks used for truncation are now prohibited in custom filters. NLM offers a step-by-step workaround for any searches affected by the new rule.
Potential pitfalls: Search results do not include full text articles. Unfortunately, accessing the full text from PubMed can be cumbersome. For example, once you click a search result, it can take some searching around the page to determine if there’s a link to access the full text. If you do find a link, however, you may discover you need to subscribe to the journal site in order to access the full text. On the other hand, you may learn the text is available for free. Regardless, it often takes some trial and error to determine your options for accessing the text. The good news is, third-party tools are available to address workflow issues like these. Article Galaxy Widget, Reprints Desk’s browser plug-in for easy literature access, for example, lets researchers access any scientific document, at the lowest cost available— directly from the PubMed search results page. For more information on accessing full-text scientific literature directly from PubMed, please ask the Article Galaxy experts.
Is there another PubMed fact that deserves a mention? Let us know and we’ll update the post with the best ideas.