Searching PubMed


PubMed is a free, web-based database of the life sciences and biomedical research literature, mostly articles in peer-reviewed journals. PubMed records provide bibliographic information and fairly detailed abstracts. PubMed does a good job of covering the tobacco control literature and was the database used for the literature reviews in Evidence to Guide Action.

PubMed homepage and search interface

It is easy to search PubMed if you already know the title or author you are looking for, or if you want to scan the literature. It is best to consult a librarian if you want to develop a more precise and comprehensive search. 

Tips for doing a simple search in PubMed

1. Type some key ideas into the search bar at the top of the homepage - for example smoking and university students.

2. You may choose to limit the results by using various filters that are available on the left side of the search results page. Some popular filters are: 

  • Article Type - Systematic review
  • Text Availability - Free full text available
  • Publications Dates - 5 years
  • Languages - English
  • Ages - Adolescent

3. If you want to start being more precise, check how the articles you are interested in are indexed by PubMed. Open up the record of the article (it is best if it is a year post-publication to ensure PubMed has caught up with the indexing). At the bottom of the record click on "Publication Types, MeSH Terms" - the list of MeSH Terms are how PubMed has indexed this article. You may want to consider using these terms in your search. Some popular MeSH Terms for Tobacco Control: 

  • Smoking 
  • Tobacco use cessation 
  • Smoking cessation (excludes chew and snuff) 
  • Tobacco smoke pollution (secondhand smoke) 
  • Smoke-free policy (2013 onward)
4. Some articles are available in full text on the web; check the upper right corner of the record page.
A link there will either take you to the full text for free or a publishing site that will sell you access to the article. Check with your librarian before paying; he or she may be able to get the article for free.

5. Sign up for a PubMed/NCBI account to store PubMed searches and automatically get updates when new articles are published on topics of interest to you.

Example PubMed searches on popular tobacco control topics

Note these searches are broadly defined and will include some irrelevant records. Talk to your librarian about developing a more precise search string. 





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