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PubMed Basics

Content and Purpose

PubMed is an online index to the biomedical journal literature that is available free worldwide.  It was developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), located at the United States National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.  PubMed provides citations and abstracts to journal articles, and in many cases links to the full text of the articles.

The MEDLINE database, produced by the National Library of Medicine, is the largest component of PubMed and therefore the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, a relatively small proportion of records in PubMed are not part of MEDLINE.  PubMed receives citations to newly published articles directly from publishers immediately upon publication.  Until the records are processed and annotated (which may take 1-3 weeks), they are not formally entered into the MEDLINE database.  Out-of-scope citations from general science publications from which the life-science articles are entered into the MEDLINE database remain in PubMed but are not part of MEDLINE.  PubMed also contains a few additional subsets of records that are not in MEDLINE. 

PubMed contains over 16 million records dating from the 1950s to the present and indexes over 4800 journals published in the United States and 70 other countries.  PubMed covers the following fields:

  • all health sciences including medicine, nursing, dentistry, allied health, psychiatry, health care administration, and veterinary science
  • the pre-clinical sciences such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, and microbiology
  • related disciplines such as biomedical engineering, nutrition, psychology, and social work.

Accessing PubMed

You can access PubMed directly from http://pubmed.gov from any computer with internet access. However, if you link to PubMed through the Dana Medical Library homepage or through the UVM College of Medicine's COMET system (for COM faculty, staff, and students), the UVM/University of Vermont Medical Center holdings will automatically be displayed.

You may link to PubMed from the Dana Medical Library web page under Find, link from here directly, or type this URL into your web browser http://voyager.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/purl?cat=uvmdb&id=1450459.

Once you have accessed the PubMed home page this way, you might want to bookmark it.

Basic Searching and Viewing Results

The simplest way to search PubMed is to enter a word string into the search box and allow the system to automatically perform the search for you.  This "type and go" method works well for straightforward, highly focused clinical questions.  Select terms that clearly and concisely express the key concepts, usually a single word or short phrase. By default, terms are combined using the Boolean operator "AND".

Suppose you want to search for articles on the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and the prevention of strokes.

  • Open PubMed.
  • In the search box, enter the word string "stroke prevention nsaids". Click Search. 
  • PubMed will return a list of citations in the default Summary format.
  • The results will be displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recently added articles listed first.

Accessing Electronic (Online) and Print Journal Articles

UVM Journals icon

The green and white UVM Journals icon displayed on a PubMed record indicates that UVM owns that journal article in print. To determine the University's print holdings, click on the UVM Journals icon to access the UVM Libraries Catalog. Journal issues from 1986 to the present are shelved in Dana Medical Library. Issues from prior to 1986 are located in the Library Research Annex.

UVM E-Journals icon

The green and white UVM E-Journals icon displayed on a PubMed record indicates that UVM and University of Vermont Medical Center have access to that journal article online. The UVM Libraries use IP Addresses to let publishers know that UVM and University of Vermont Medical Center faculty, staff and students should have access to their online journals. If you are using a computer on campus (at UVM or University of Vermont Medical Center) you will be able to use these journals by clicking on the UVM E-Journals icon. If you are using a computer from off campus, please see our instructions for off campus access at http://library.uvm.edu/dana/guides/connect/. Unaffiliated patrons may access articles in electronic journals only from a computer on the UVM campus.

Journal articles that we don't have access to can be ordered free of charge for UVM and University of Vermont Medical Center staff, students, and faculty. Delivery times average between one day and 3 days. Please see Interlibrary Loan for more information.

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