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Searching in PubMed: Basic Search

A guide for using PubMed, the world's largest database for biomedical and health sciences literature.

Find Articles by Topic

To perform a basic topic search, enter your topic keywords, and select search. For best results:

  • Be as specific as possible with your search terms.
  • Do NOT use punctuation, quotation marks, truncation, or operators like "and", "or". Let PubMed make these connections. 

For example, if you were interested in "yoga" and "mental health" and "prisons" search for:  

PubMed will map, or add synonyms and all relevant MeSH to your search. When a MeSH term is added to your search, all the MeSH subheadings and narrower terms are also included. 

To view the mappings, select Advanced under the search bar in the results screen. Note, subheadings and narrower terms  are not listed, but they  have been included in your search through a process called automatic explosion. 

Under the History and Search Details, click on the > icon in the Details column to view how PubMed interpreted your search. Here are the mappings for the above search. 

Find Articles by Author

To perform an author search, enter the author's last name and their initial(s).

  • You do not need to use any punctuation: hoyer kk
  • If you do not know the author's first initial, add the author field tag, [au] to your search: hoyer [au] 


  • If your author has a common name, perform a search to locate an article by your author and click on the link of the author’s name.
  • This function runs a “computed author” algorithm based on co-authors, affiliation and topic terms.