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PubMed is a massive free online database of medical information provided by the (US) National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This site is available via the NCBI Entrez service, a gateway to multiple free biomedical collections hosted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Major Recent Updates

For the latest news on PubMed and NCBI databases, see the current issue of the NLM Technical Bulletin, and follow the "PubMed New and Noteworthy" RSS Feed.

  • January 2013 - A Download history link will be added to the PubMed, MeSH and NLM Catalog Advanced page History feature, the search bar will be updated to list up to the last four databases searched at the top of the pull-down database menu, and the alphabetic list with all the databases will also include the recently searched databases. See this article for details.[1]
  • August 2012 - Searching PubMed for articles relating to the history of medicine has become easier with the introduction of the new PubMed left hand filter sidebar. The filter sidebar allows users to easily select different filters to apply to a PubMed search. See this article for details.[2]
  • August 2012 - A new PubMed search feature is now available that allows a search for structured abstracts in PubMed. See this article for details.
  • June 2012 - PubMed "Results by year" and PubMed Central "PMC images search" tools now display in the discovery column for all PubMed users. See this article for details.
  • May 2012 - The PubMed abstract display was modified to display results using a ranking algorithm when users click the author search link. See this article for details.
  • May 2012 - The Filter Sidebar has replaced the Limits page in PubMed. See this article for details.
  • April 2012 - The PubMed Send to menu has been updated to include a "Citation manager" selection. See this article for details.
  • April 2012 - The PubMed Abstract display has been updated with a "Save items" portlet to provide an easy way to add citations to a My NCBI collection. See this article for details.
  • February 2012 - PubMed now supports versioned citations. See this article for details.
  • February 2012 - The PubMed Text Version has been retired and the web site automatically redirects to PubMed Mobile.
  • December 2011 - The advanced search page has been modified to provide users with a less cluttered, more intuitive way to build searches. See this article for details.
  • September 2011 - Mobile users are now automatically redirected to the PubMed mobile site. See this article for details.
  • September 2011 - Enhancements were made to the My NCBI My Bibliography feature. In addition, click the My NCBI homepage "Customize this page" link to add the new BLAST History tool. See this article for details.
  • July 2011 - The PubMed, MeSH & NLM Catalog Search Boxes were modified. See this article for details.
  • July 2011 - PubMed search terms are bolded in the results list.[3]
  • July 2011 - There is a new look for PubMed Central. See this article for details.
  • April 2011 - It is announced that PubMed Text Version will be retired.[4]
  • March 2011 - My NCBI was redesigned. See details here.
  • March 2011 - PubMed Mobile Beta was released. See details here.
  • January 2011 - Page selection is now available in PubMed.[5]
  • November 2010 -PubMed Central Public Access Page was modified. See more information in this article.
  • October 2010 - The PubMed Abstract display was enhanced with an image strip generated from the NCBI Images database. See more details here.
  • June 2010- PubMed Clinical Queries Page was redesigned. See more information in here.
  • May 2010 - PubMed Advanced Search Page was modified. See more information in this article.
  • April 2010 - PubMed homepage was modified. See more information in this article.
  • March 2010 - PubMed extends its biomedical database citation coverage back to 1947.[6]
  • October 2009 - A major re-design of the site was announced. A summary is available here.


The PubMed database includes citations and abstracts for biomedical literature from MEDLINE and additional life science journals. The PubMed/MEDLINE database can be searched using standard search terms (e.g., keyword, author) or the NLM Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) Terms. MeSH is the controlled vocabulary used for indexing articles and provides a consistent way to retrieve information that may use different terminology for the same concepts.

Searching Using MeSH

Users can access the MeSH subject headings by using the drop-down menu beside the basic PubMed search form to select "MeSH." The user can then enter the controlled vocabulary term that they are searching for (such as "hemoglobin") and select "search". The MeSH search results will display a list of subject headings that match the search term.

A search within the MeSH database will return a list of relevant subject headings. Select the checkbox beside a heading to send it to the search builder.

From the search result list, users can select the checkboxes beside each subject heading that they find relevant. Beside the search results list is a search form titled "PubMed Search Builder", where the user can select "Add to search builder" to enter all selected subject headings into a correctly formatted query that can be searched directly in PubMed. The user must select which Boolean operator they want the subject headings in the query to be combined with (And/Or).

The subheadings added to the search builder are automatically formatted to conduct a search in PubMed.

Users can view the full record for each subject heading by selecting the link in the title of the search result. The full record contains a brief definition of the term, the year it was added to MeSH, and a list subheadings related to the term. Users can select any or all of the subheadings to add to the search builder and search directly in PubMed.

In the full record, select relevant subheadings.

Alternately, the user can select to only search the general topic, without any subheadings, by selecting one of both of these options:

  • Restrict to MeSH Major Topic.
  • Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy.

Below the subheadings and additional options on the main record, users can view additional related entry terms and all broader and narrower terms listed above and below the selected heading within the MeSH hierarchy. Browsing through this hierarchy may help the user find additional related terms and synonyms to add to the search builder.

In the full record, the user can also view the heading within the full MeSH hierarchy of terms.

After the user has entered all desired subject headings into the search builder, they can select "Search PubMed" to conduct a search with the MeSH terms in the main PubMed database.

Search with the chosen MeSH terms directly in PubMed.

More information on searching with MeSH in PubMed can be found on this NCBI help page.

Other Services

The LinkOut service of Entrez permits the user to link directly to information and services beyond the Entrez system, including full-text publications.

The BLAST service allows users to search NCBI genetic databases via the BLAST interface. (BLAST stands for Basic Local Alignment Search Tool, and it is a well known algorithm for searching genetic material).


Free and optional registration is available through My NCBI. Additional features available to registered users include automatic e-mailing of search updates, ability to save records, and filters for search results.


  1. Canese K. PubMed History and Search Bar Updates. NLM Tech Bull. 2013 Jan-Feb;(390):e1. NLM Technical Bulletin website, Accessed January 30, 2013.
  2. Gillikin D. "Retrieving History of Medicine citations in MEDLINE/PubMed." NLM Tech Bull. 2012 Jul-Aug;(387):e6.NLM Technical Bulletin website, Accessed September 24, 2012.
  3. "PubMed Search Terms Bolded." NLM Technical Bulletin website, Accessed November 3, 2011.
  4. "PubMed Text Version Retired." NLM Technical Bulletin website, Accessed November 3, 2011.
  5. "Page Selection Available in PubMed®." NLM Technical Bulletin website, Accessed November 3, 2011.
  6. "PubMed® Extends Its Reach — Biomedical Database Moves Back in Time to 1947." NLM Technical Bulletin website, Accessed November 3, 2011.

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