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Searching PubMed: Introduction

Created by Health Science Librarians

What is PubMed?

PubMed is a free web-based interface for searching MEDLINE.

  • PubMed is created by the National Library of Medicine, and contains the MEDLINE database.
  • It covers journal articles in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the health care system.
  • PubMed has information about journal articles(currently over 24 million) published in 5,600 journals in 30 languages dating back to 1946.
  • It does not include information about meeting abstracts, conference proceedings, dissertations, patents, or websites.
  • NLM indexers add words called Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to the information about each article. Searching with MeSH words helps you find more relevant articles.

PubMed Homepage

  • You can learn more about PubMed by exploring the links provided on the PubMed homepage.
  • Go to PubMed

The PubMed homepage

How to Access PubMed

There is a link to Pubmed on the Health Sciences Library's home page.   (

Select PubMed on this page, or on other campus library pages. PubMed links on library webpages are coded to add the Find @ UNC button that links you to full-text online articles. 

PubMed is in the Quick Links box on the left side of the HSL website

When the article is not available online in the UNC Libraries collections, the Find @ UNC button links to a page with options to look for print in the library catalog or to request the article via Interlibrary Loan.     Example Find @ UNC button

Sample PubMed Article Record

Below is an image of a PubMed article record. Labels were added to explain the information that PubMed provides about the article:

  • Journal Name Abbreviation
  • Publication Date
  • Volume/Issue#, pages 
  • Article title
  • Author last name with first and middle initials
  • Author affiliation
  • Abstract
  • Links to comments 
  • Links to assigned index terms.

Remember: PubMed does NOT include the full-text of articles in its database--it links out to them. PubMed only searches the information about the article(including title and abstract), not the full-text of the article.  


A sample article record from PubMed

What are MeSH Terms?

Example of MeSH Terms, including "Anxiety/metabolism," "Anxiety/prevention & control," and "Humans" MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings. These are the list of standard terms added by indexers to the article record to help improve search results.

National Library of Medicine indexers examine articles and assign the most specific MeSH headings that describe the concepts discussed.

The indexer assigns as many MeSH headings as appropriate to cover the topics of the article (generally 5 to 15). When there is no specific heading for a concept, the indexer will use the closest, general heading available.

Indexers can also assign Subheadings to further describe a particular aspect of a MeSH concept. Examples of Subheadings in this list are: therapeutic use, physiology, surgery, drug therapy.


The indexer also assigns terms that reflect the characteristics of the group being studied: the age group, human or other animal, male or female.

You can search for MeSH terms for your search by going to MeSH database in PubMed from the PubMed homepage or at:

(Content adapted from NLM PubMed Tutorial)