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


Image result for pubmed logo site:.govPubMed ( is a citation database for the life sciences and biomedicine.

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). As a lot of life sciences research is funded by the NIH, the results of that research are deposited in PubMed, making it a huge and extremely valuable open access database of material. Not every article is full-text, however; some publishers require an embargo (a period of time before an item becomes available) on their articles, so you will sometimes find a citation of an article and its abstract but not the full text. Stevens may have access to some of these articles, so look for the journals in the Journal Finder.

The database was created in 1996 and now contains almost 30 million references from the following components:

  1. MEDLINE: 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 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.
  3. NCBI Bookshelf: full-text of books and documents in life sciences and healthcare from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

PubMed also includes citations from other, related sources. Much of what can be found in PubMed contains or links to full-text.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). MEDLINE, PubMed, and PMC (PubMed Central): How are they different? [fact sheet]. Retrieved from

PubMed Guides and Tutorials


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). Thus, while you can search PubMed using keywords and find many results, you will have better luck using the specific vocabulary used by PubMed itself.

The Database


The Terms

Setting Up an Email Alert for a PubMed Search

Tracking an Article from PubMed to the Library

More Neat Stuff from the National Library of Medicine

PubMed and its Predecessors

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.Object name is i1536-5050-095-04-0416-f04.jpgThe National Library of Medicine has been collecting and organizing citations of biomedical literature since its founding. For more on the history of these systems, see the articles below.


Image: IBM magnetic tape drives of the IBM 370/155 with NLM staff
Source: The development of the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS). Journal of the Medical Library Association, 95(4), 416–425.