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


PubMed logoPubMed 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. 

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 has access to it through subscription.

PubMed is a rich resource. Users are encouraged to check out the tutorials and help documents linked below to learn more about what it offers and how to use it.


What's In It
The database was created in 1996 and now contains more than 30 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





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

You can access MeSH through the browser to explore the terms on their own, which can be useful in knowing how to dig deeper in PubMed to find what you need. PubMed now incorporates MeSH terms automatically in a search but check the browser if you need to exhaustively search the literature to make sure you're finding everything.

MeSH Help and Tutorials



The Vocabulary

Using My Bibliography with a MyNCBI Account

Tracking an Article from PubMed to the Library

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.

More Neat Stuff from the National Library of Medicine