PubMed: why and how to search

PubMed is a database used mainly in the area of medicine and health sciences.

You can search for biomedical references using the PubMed search engine. References and abstracts in PubMed are freely accessible to everyone.

Our information sheet about PubMed on the Knowledge Centre for Health Ghent (KCGG) website provides more information. 


References and abstracts in PubMed are freely accessible to everyone. Checking if the full text of articles is available, can be done by clicking the SFX button. For more info about the SFX button, see the SFX (re)search tips page.

Search operators

You can search in PubMed with free text (see Automatic Term Mapping and Searching via Tags). You can also search using MeSH terms, the thesaurus keywords (see Searching via MeSH terms). However, a good search action requires a combination of both (see Searching via free text and MeSH terms).

In PubMed the following Boolean operators can be used to set up your search query:

  • AND: all terms should appear. In a standard search query AND is automatically placed between search terms.
  • OR: one of the terms should appear.
  • NOT: this term should not appear.

Use double quotation marks in PubMed to search for an exact word or word combination, e.g. “cardiovascular disease”. The use of round brackets changes the order in which the AND, OR and NOT combinations are carried out, this is called "nesting". If no round brackets are used, then PubMed will combine the search terms from left to right.


If you want to import one or more references to your personal EndNote library, select them in the list of search results. Then select Send to > Citation manager > Create File.

A direct import will only occur if both EndNote and PubMed are opened in a browser via Athena.

More information

Visit the Pubmed information sheet on the website of the Knowledge Center for Health Ghent for more information about why and how to search in PubMed and for training (basic and advanced searching in PubMed)


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Last modified Jan. 4, 2024, 2:43 p.m.