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A guide to PubMed, an open-access database for health and biomedical research.

PubMed logoPubMed

PubMed is a freely accessible citation database for biomedical literature.

It is a product of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PubMed is built on the NLM's long history of indexing and providing researchers access to the nation's biomedical literature. 


Full Text if Open, Citation if Not

PubMed itself does not contain the full text of an article, but in most cases each article will include a link to the full text, either in PubMed Central or on the publisher's website if the article publisher has an embargo (a period of time before an item becomes available).

If an article citation includes an abstract but not the full text, look for the article title in the Library search bar or search for the journal in the Journal Finder to see if Stevens subscribes to it.

What's In It

The database was created in 1996 and now contains more than 34 million references, primarily from the following components:
    The National Library of Medicine's original journal citation database, going back to the 1960s and including millions of citations to articles from 1946-present. A journal's inclusion in MEDLINE is based on stringent standards to guarantee quality and relevance to the fields of biomed and life sciences. All MEDLINE entries are indexed using the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) taxonomy.
  2. PubMed Central (PMC)
    Since 2000, PMC has been a free archive for full-text articles that comply with the National Institute of Health's Public Access Policy, which was made a requirement for research funded by the NIH in 2008. To meet this requirement, authors or publishers must deposit some version of the final publication in PMC. Some journal publishers retain copyright on the work and make it publicly available only after an embargo period of some kind. There is some overlap between PMC and MEDLINE in that journals that are indexed in MEDLINE are also among those who deposit articles in PMC.
  3. NCBI Bookshelf
    Full text books and documents in life sciences and healthcare from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

PubMed Guides and Tutorials



My NCBI Account

There is so much to use in PubMed that creating an account can help you keep track of it all. Log into My NCBI through Stevens (find it on the list of partner organizations) or use another third party vendor. You can also link multiple accounts to your My NCBI profile.


MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings, and is the NLM-controlled vocabulary thesaurus used for indexing articles in PubMed (specifically, articles from journals in the MEDLINE collection).

MeSH makes sure that every new and old medical term is referred to in one single, controlled way, so if you're looking for publications related to a term, you know you're getting the most accurate results.

How to Use It

When you search in PubMed, you are using MeSH terms whether you know it or not. Find your search history in the Advanced section, and there you will find PubMed's internal workings based on your search strings. You can also use the Advanced Search Builder to incorporate MeSH terms into your search string directly.

Or start at the beginning with the MeSH browser to choose the ones you must use in your search string for the fullest results.

MeSH Help and Tutorials



The Vocabulary

PubMed + Library Databases = Full Text!

If you can't find full-text of an article through PubMed, you might be able to find it through Library database subscriptions. As seen in the image below, take the full title of an article from PubMed and put it in the Library search bar on the Library homepage, in quotation marks to search for the exact title. The catalog will show if we have full text through another database or not.

If we do have access, you'll be able to read it (if you are off campus, you'll be prompted to log in with your myStevens username and password). If we do not have it, click the button on the record to "Request item from Interlibrary Loan" to submit the request form for the article.

A graphic representation of how to take an article title from PubMed and search for it in the Library website. First image: PubMed article record, with title highlighted. Second image: Library search bar with title in quotes. Third image: article record in the Library catalog with link to read full-text.

Biomedical Research & Information from the National Library of Medicine