What is PubMed?

PubMed is a free resource providing access to MEDLINE, as well as the National Library of Medicine's database of citations and abstracts in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, health care systems, and preclinical sciences.

It is developed and maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine® (NLM).

Instructions for using this guide:

Accessing PubMed

PubMed is accessible directly by going to PubMed.gov

It is also listed in the Databases section of the Nursing subject guide and the Biology subject guide.

Go therefore From the Nursing subject guide to your right, click on Databases.

You are now on the Nursing Databases page, which provides links to popular resources for nurses and nursing students.

Go therefore Click on the link for PubMed.gov, which is located in the middle column.

You are now in the PubMed database.

(As a free government website, you do not need to access it through the library website.  However, you will to consult the library website for full text articles from PubMed.)

The Case

The research question...

Are non-contact thermometers fit for mainstream usage for detection of fever in pediatric patients?


Let's Get Started!

Let's start searching for our first term.

Go therefore In the box, search:

non-contact thermometer

Note: as you type, the system offers a list of terms other people have used in searching. These are not necessarily official MeSH terms.

Using MeSH

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This brings us to a searching tip:

Use subject headings whenever possible.

Remember subject headings (called MeSH in PubMed, or CINAHL Headings in CINAHL) are standardized terms that describe a term. They help you find articles about topics that can be expressed in many ways. For example, Cancer can be described in various ways, including malignancy, carcinoma, melanoma, breast cancer, etc.

With all these possible terms to choose from, how do you know which to search on?

In PubMed, the subject heading for cancer is Neoplasms. By searching on Neoplasms, you'll find articles about this topic regardless of how an author may have referred to it.

So how can you tell if PubMed searched an appropriate MeSH term for your term?

Using MeSH

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Go therefore Scroll down your results page to find the Search details box on the right side of the page.


You'll see PubMed searched for your term "non-contact"  in All Fields of the PubMed record (like author, title, abstract...not in the full text of the article) as well as as a MeSH term for "thermometers". This translation process is known as automatic term mapping.

Your job as a searcher is to confirm that PubMed found an appropriate MeSH term for MI, which it did!

Alternative Terms

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However, with the low number of search results which came up, perhaps we should try another term in place of non-contact thermometer. Knowing that thermometer is a MeSH term, let's look to see if there are synonyms for "non-contact" that would bring up more results.

Go therefore Look at the search results and see what other terms are used for non-contact thermometer. (Search Tip: You can also do a Google search for non-contact thermometer and see what alternative terms are used.)

Which of the following appear to be a alternative term for non-contact thermometer?

Alternative Terms

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Go therefore Now in the box search infrared thermometer

Sweet, our results increased ten fold! Now take a look at these results.

What other term is being used in place of thermometer?

Using Truncation

Did you know that you can include results from thermometer, thermography, thermoscanners, and any other thermo-related term?  To do so you will want to use a truncation.

Truncation can be used when you want PubMed to find all terms that begin with a given text string. Truncation is represented by the asterisk (*), sometimes referred to as a "wildcard."

In this example, we want to search all terms that have the root, thermo. If you search thermo* PubMed will retrieve words such as thermometer, thermography, thermoscanners, etc.

Go therefore In the box search infrared thermo*

Now we've doubled our search results!

NOTE: Truncation turns off automatic term mapping and the automatic explosion of MeSH terms.  It is always good to try searches with and without truncation to compare results.

Searching Additional Terms

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Go therefore Search your next term
pediatric patients

Go therefore Scroll down your results page to find the Search details box on the right side of the page.

pediatric patients

This search found MeSH Terms for both pediatrics and patients.

As with our first term, it may be well to use alternative terms, such as children to expand our search results as well.

Searching Additional Terms

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Go therefore Search your next term

Often times we would want to narrow our search with such a term, but for this research problem it should not be necessary.

Combining Search Terms

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Now it's time to combine your terms before you go any farther!

Go therefore Click on the Advanced link under the PubMed search box.

Go therefore Next to each search in your history you should see the Add option. Click Add next to:

  • infrared thermo*
  • pediatric patients
  • fever

Combining Search Terms

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How should we combine sets?

Combine the sets using AND so your articles will include the 3 terms.

OR is used to combine similar terms and will broaden your search.
For example: (infrared thermo* OR non-contact thermo*) AND pediatric patients AND fever

Combining Search Terms

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Go therefore Now that you've added the three terms to the search builder, and see the default is AND, click the Search button.

As you review the results, you'll see you have a small number of articles. Don't panic, here a few tips to expand results if necessary.

1. Remove any truncations.

2. Use alternative terms.

Let's try both of these tips and see how our results change.

Go therefore Change thermo* back to thermometer (you could also change it to thermography or thermoscanners if additional results were needed)

Go therefore Change pediatric patients to children

Now with over 50 results, we can start to apply limiters and look for full text articles.

Setting up a NCBI account

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At this point in the research it is helpful to have a MY NCBI account.  This will allow us to do two things

  • Filter our results based off of selected criteria
  • Link to Goshen College's resources to find full-text articles, or request through interlibrary loan.

Setting up a NCBI account

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Go therefore Click on the link below to register.  Before doing so, read the following.

This link will open in a new window.  Follow the steps to setup a account then return to this window.

You will be asked to fill in account information.  This does not need to match your GC username and password, simply something you can remember.

You will also be asked to verify your e-mail address.  You can verify your e-mail anytime in the next few days.

Register for an NCBI account

Setting up a NCBI account

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Now that we have a account setup, let's setup Filters.

Go therefore Click on the link My NCBI, located in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Need some help?

Go therefore In the box labeled Filters on the right hand column, select the link Add filters for the selected database.

Go therefore Select the category Properties.

Go therefore Select the link Clinical Queries, select all the boxes.

Your filters are now saved!

Setting up a NCBI account

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Next, let's setup a Outside Tool.  This will allow us to link to Goshen College resources.

Go therefore Select the link with your username located in the upper right hand cornerstone of the page.

Need some help?

Go therefore Click on Click here to access the NCBI Site Preferences page. under the heading NCBI Site Preferences

Go therefore Click on the link Outside Tool under the heading PubMed Preferences

Go therefore Select Goshen College Library then scroll back to the top and click on the Save button.

Setting up a NCBI account

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Go therefore Click on the link My NCBI, located in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Go therefore In the left hand column in the Recent Activity box, select the top search infrared thermometer AND children A...

Now we are back to our search results!

Applying Limits

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In evidence-based practice, the most important limit will be study type. See the evidence pyramid below. As you move up the pyramid, the studies have stronger methodology, less bias, and controls for comparison. But there will be fewer and fewer!

Evidence Pyramid

Applying Limits

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There are a couple of ways to narrow our search to specific study types: Filters and Clinical Queries.

Clinical Queries are validated search strategies that filter your results to the appropriate study design based on the type of question you are asking.  In PubMed there are five clinical study categories to choose from:

  • Therapy: The therapy filter will retrieve clinical studies that discuss the treatment of diseases.
  • Diagnosis: Click on diagnosis to find clinical studies addressing disease diagnosis.
  • Etiology: Click on etiology to find clinical studies addressing causation/harm in disease and diagnostics.
  • Prognosis: Click on prognosis to find clinical studies addressing disease prognosis.
  • Clinical Prediction Guides: Click on clinical prediction guides to find clinical studies which discuss methods for predicting the likelihood of disease presence or absence.

You can also limit by emphasis: broad and narrow.  Narrow retrieve the articles most relevant to your query.

Applying Limits

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Go therefore Make sure your final search set results are displaying (if not, they are available on the Advanced page by clicking on the Items found link to the right of your final search set).

Go therefore Click on the Diagnosis/Narrow filter available to the right of your results.

Applying Limits

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Look at the citations you've retrieved to find those that are relevant to the question. If your search still yields too many results consider another key term.

Determine if you need to apply any other limits such as by English language, age, etc.

Reviewing Your Results

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Go therefore From the results page, go to the Display Settings drop down menu (above your results), select Abstract and then click the Apply button to scan abstracts.

Criteria to determine relevance: matches your patient/problem; is in a similar setting; is current; is a language you can read; and is the appropriate study design. You should see these relevant articles:

  • Child Care Health Dev. 2012 (PMID 21651612)
  • J Clin Nurs. 2011 (PMID 21492277)
  • Ital J Pediatr. 2011 (PMID 21255450)
  • Arch Dis Child. 2010 (PMID:20736400)
  • J Clin Epidemiol. 2006 (PMID:16549256)

NOTE: The PMID is a unique identifier assigned to each citation in PubMed and is searchable.

Reviewing Your Results

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Go therefore To see if Goshen has the full-text of an article, click on the Goshen College Library button if available. Otherwise, click on the Goshen College Library button to look for electronic or print availability or order it from another library.

GC library

If you are not on campus you will be prompted to log in with your GC username and password to access resources subscribed to by the Library.

The End

You have successfully completed the PubMed Tutorial!

If you have questions, or need help searching PubMed, please contact Goshen College Good Library at (574) 535-7431.