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PubMed: Introduction

Use this guide to help you search PubMed more effectively and to find out how to manage your search results. After reading this introductory page, click each heading in the following row of tabs:

What is PubMed?

PubMed homepage

  • ​PubMed is a library database that provides records of articles and other documents in health and biomedicine, along with aspects of behavioural sciences, bioengineering, chemical sciences and life sciences. PubMed is provided by the US National Library of Medicine and US National Institutes of Health but its coverage is international.
  • It is a very extensive and reputable database, but if you are doing a systematic review, you are advised to search multiple databases in order to identify literature on your topic.
  • Date coverage: generally 1946 to present, with some older material indexed.
  • Core content: PubMed provides access to Medline, an index of articles and other documents from across 5,600 worldwide publications (academic journals, most of which are peer-reviewed; along with newsletters and magazines). List of journals indexed by PubMed. Note that PubMed has also started indexing preprint versions of articles and preprints are published prior to the peer-review process. 
  • Additional content: PubMed also provides access to online books, websites and molecular biology resources.
  • Connect to PubMed:

PubMed's MEDLINE content vs Embase

  • There are differences in journal coverage between Embase and MEDLINE. Embase indexes a total of over 8,000 journals. Amongst those journals, 2,900 are NOT indexed by MEDLINE and are unique to Embase. 
  • The MEDLINE journal content can be searched using Embase, but the Embase journal content cannot be searched using MEDLINE.
  • Embase is produced by Elsevier in Europe and has more European journal coverage, MEDLINE is produced in North America and has more American journal coverage.
  • There is a significant difference in indexing. The index to MEDLINE is called MeSH.  The index to Embase is called Emtree.  MeSH contains approximately 30,000 controlled subject headings whereas Emtree has approximately 60,000. The extra Emtree terms are mainly for drugs and medical devices. This means that Embase is much better than Medline if you are searching for a drug name, drug class or type of medical device.
  • Embase indexes routes of drug administration, MEDLINE does not.
  • Embase indexes medical device trade names and manufacturers, MEDLINE does not.

Connecting to PubMed

  • The best way to connect to PubMed is to use a link from within the Library website. Using a library link makes it easier for you to access the full-text of articles that the Library has provided through its subscriptions.

    You can find a link to PubMed by searching the Library Catalogue or visiting the Library's webpages for Health, Pharmacy & Pharmacology, Biology and Biochemistry, Psychology, and Mechanical Engineering.  Here is another link you can use:

Checking availability of articles

  • Do not to use the 'text availability' filters to limit search results to articles that are available to you.  This approach will not identify those articles available through the Library’s subscriptions.
  • To find out if an article is available to you, click the title of the relevant search result in order to enter the article's full PubMed record.  Then, if you see a publisher's logo displayed underneath the 'full text links' heading (to the right of the webpage) click the logo. Normally, this enables you to access the full article.
  • If the full article/document is not available online via PubMed:

    1. Search the Library Catalogue for the article title.  If this fails to retrieve a result, search instead for the journal title in which the article was published. Catalogue records of journals include details of which year/volume/issues we provide. You may find that we provide a print copy of the journal in the library. 

    2. If the Library does not provide the article in either online or print format, you may find a legitimate open access version of the article on Google Scholar or consider requesting it via our Inter-Library Loans service.