This is the second in a series of posts on techniques for searching PubMed. In the first post we discussed what happens when you do a basic search of PubMed. This post is about the advanced search and limits options, and future posts will get into other options, such as searching MeSH, subsets, and filters.
The fields mentioned in the last PubMed post (MeSH terms, all fields, and author) aren’t the only field searching options. There are many others you can search, and there’s no need to memorize them—they’re all in the search builder, which you can find by clicking on advanced search under the search bar. If you want to make your search more specific, advanced search is one place to start.
Advanced search allows you to build a more detailed, specific search by letting you choose which fields to search for each term you enter, such as date, MeSH major topic, MeSH subheading, MeSH term (I’ll explain MeSH in the next post), author, investigator, grant number, publication type, and publisher, among many other things. To use advanced search, first select a field, then add a term into the search builder bar, choose and, or, or not, and click Add to search box. You can keep adding things to the search box in the same way.
Note that there are several different date fields for searching; make sure you choose the right one. It will ask you to specify a range of dates. Enter dates as year/month/day (e.g. 2007/07/30); month and day are not required.
If you’ve performed a search that, in hindsight, you think would be an awesome search if it only had a couple more things added on, don’t worry! PubMed will save your searches for up to 8 hours; they’re listed underneath the search builder in advanced search. You can add one to the search box by either clicking on a number or typing it manually into the search box with # (e.g. #3) and keep adding to it. If you really like a search, you can also save it to your MyNCBI account.
If you’re getting too many results, or if all the results you’re getting are in the wrong language, are all clinical trials when you need reviews, or are otherwise not the type of article you’re looking for, you can go to the limits page and set limits to get only the kind of articles you want. The link to limits is right next to advanced search.
Limits also includes date limits, age groups, and journal subsets for specific areas (such as nursing, dentistry, etc). It’s a good place to look around on your own to get exactly what you want. The only thing we don’t recommend is selecting links to full text or links to free full text under the Text Options box, because they do not check for availability at UCLA, so they may skip articles UCLA does have.
PubMed keeps your limits on until you turn them off. If you’re having trouble with your searching or are using a shared computer, check for the Limits Activated warning under the search bar.
<submitted by Vicki Burchfield>