TNOA Journal of Ophthalmic Science and Research

: 2019  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 176--179

How to use pubmed to your advantage?

Prabu Baskaran 
 Department Vitreo-Retina, Aravind Eye Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Prabu Baskaran
Aravind Eye Hospital, Noombal, Poonamallee High Road, Chennai - 600 077, Tamil Nadu

How to cite this article:
Baskaran P. How to use pubmed to your advantage?.TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res 2019;57:176-179

How to cite this URL:
Baskaran P. How to use pubmed to your advantage?. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Aug 3 ];57:176-179
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Literature search is an important step for any kind of scientific research to understand what has been done so far in a particular field of your interest and also to think what can be done further to address any lacunae in literature. This will help us to set a precise research question, which is like a good start in the game. PubMed is the most widely used search engine or a tool for doing literature search. Here, we will concentrate on PubMed and try to understand how best we can utilize PubMed to our advantage.

First and foremost, what one needs to understand is that PubMed search is not as smart as your Google search. It requires some smartness from the user to make it work smarter for you.

 Create Your Own Account

To begin with, I strongly suggest that everyone should create their own (National Center for Biotechnology Information, a part of the United States National Library of Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health) account which is completely free of cost. It is a good idea to be logged in while searching as there are certain very clear advantages by doing so [Figure 1].{Figure 1}

 Pubmed, Medline, and Pubmed Central

One should also understand that PubMed is only an online face of Medline, which has got the entire database with full-text articles. Hence, one basically gets to see the abstract of the article in PubMed per se. However, certain articles are made open source by either the authors or by the journal for the users. These articles will be marked PubMed central at the right top of the page when the abstract is opened [Figure 2].{Figure 2}

 Advanced Search

Simple search from the home page on a particular topic will give us a huge number of articles related to the keyword typed in the search box. This type of search will not help us much as the specific articles that you are looking at are often masked or diluted amidst a lot of unwanted or unnecessary nonspecific articles. That is where one should use the advanced search option to get a very specific result [Figure 3].{Figure 3}

 Boolean Search

Boolean functions help you to fine tune your literature research without much hassles and narrow down to very specific articles related to your research question, i.e. if you search scleral fixation intraocular lens, you will get 653 articles to go through. This will even have articles related to iris-claw intraocular lens. Instead, if you write scleral fixation intraocular lens AND extraocular, you will get only seven articles to go through. This is the advantage of advanced search using Boolean operators. They are three types such as AND, OR, and NOT. When you want articles containing all the keywords that you type, use AND. When you want at least one of them, use OR. When you do not want one particular keyword in your search, you can use NOT, i.e., if you type outcome of idiopathic macular hole surgery NOT traumatic macular hole, this will not show articles related to traumatic macular holes [Figure 4] and [Figure 5].{Figure 4}{Figure 5}

 Save Your Search

It is important that you need to look back what you searched yesterday or day before yesterday to get a good flow of research work. There are multiple options for it. You may simply click the article you want to bookmark and email the same to your inbox. Or else if you open your own account, the searched articles can be saved as such. If you are already logged in during search, the recent activities are any which way saved [Figure 6] and [Figure 7].{Figure 6}{Figure 7}


One can make a bibliography of one's own research work in this section; this is more of a private page for the user.

 Making Your Own Collection

One can make multiple collections on various topics in this section. Once a collection is made, one can set e-alert so that PubMed will send a mail directly to the inbox linked to the account.

 Pubmed Tutorials

PubMed itself provides a lot of teaching material for the users to understand and learn the nuances in using PubMed. This is available in audiovisual format as well for the users as YouTube videos [Figure 8].{Figure 8}


Medical subject heading or MeSH is a collection of words/keywords derived from the main article to reflect the various concepts of the article for better search. This is done by the indexers of the National Library of Medicine.

Hence, we have tried to introduce some of the key terminologies and concepts that one must know and apply in PubMed for quality literature review which is definitely the most critical and crucial step in any kind of scientific research.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.