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PH 290: Grant Writing: PubMed Search Tips


Topic Searching

Combine keywords using "AND" or "OR" - "AND" finds the intersection of the concepts. "OR" finds any one of the concepts.

  • smoking cessation AND evaluation studies
  • pregnancy AND substance abuse AND program evaluation
  • needs assessment AND health promotion 
  • (environmental design OR organizational culture) AND (health promotion OR health behavior)

TIP: Searches can be combined or used in subsequent searches using Advanced - Search History.

Filtering Results


Focus your results by using filters. You can filter by a variety aspects:

  • Publication date
  • Language
  • Age group
  • Sex
  • Animal vs human studies
  • Article type (eg, review, case report)
  • Search field (eg, title/abstract)
  • & more!


Similar Articles

Clicking Similar Articles retrieves about 100 articles similar to the article you clicked from. Results are ranked by relevancy.
  1. Identify one really good article
  2. Click on “similar articles” underneath  the citation

Similar Articles Example

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

Finding the Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) term for your search topic can often retrieve more relevant results and help ensure that you don't miss articles.

  • Trained indexers analyze the content of the articles and assign MeSH terms and subheadings
  • Allows you to do more focused searching
  • When you search a MeSH term, all more specific terms are automatically included

There are two ways to access the MeSH database. 

Getting to the MeSH Database

NOTE: Not all concepts are represented well in MeSH. If you cannot find a relevant MeSH term for your topic, try searching for it in the title. For example, "life course" [ti]

MeSH terms have a variety of subheadings that you can use to focus your results more precisely. Some useful subheadings for public health include: epidemiologyprevention and control, and statistics and numerical data.

MeSH database

If you are still getting too many results, another way to focus your results is to make the MeSH term the main point of the article. To do this, check the Restrict to MeSH Major Topic box below the subheadings list. Or, in the search box, replace the [mesh] tag with [majr].

Restrict to major topic

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