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How to search in the Health Sciences

Searching Subject Headings in PubMed

You can search for subject headings in PubMed by using the "MeSH Database".  You can find the MeSH Database on the PubMed home page under "Explore".

Screen capture of the PubMed home page highlighting "Mesh Database" under Explore.

In the MeSH database you are searching for the Subject Heading for your term so that you can add it to your search. Type in the term you are looking for (e.g. heart attack) and click Search.

Screen capture showing the MeSH database search window with the words heart attack typed in the window.

PubMed will display the most appropriate term for you to use in your search.  In the case of the example for "heart attack" the correct subject heading to search is "Myocardial Infarction".  Click "Add to Search Builder" to add this to your search.

Screen capture of the Mesh Database showing the term searched "heart attack" and the correct term to use Myocardial infarction.  The button "Add to Search Builder" is highlighted.

PubMed adds the term to the "PubMed Search Builder" window using the proper search syntax.  In this case...
"Myocardial Infarction"[Mesh] 
Now click "Search PubMed" to proceed with searching for this subject heading.

PubMed Mesh Database screen capture showing the PubMed Search Builder with the properly formatted search inside.  The button "Search PubMed" is highlighted.

Phrase Searching in PubMed

You can search for phrases in PubMed using quotation marks.  

Type the phrase you want to use in the PubMed search window.

Add quotation marks on either end of the phrase.


  • "lived experience"
  • "length of stay"
  • "myocardial infarction"

Truncation in PubMed

Use the asterisk symbol. 


eg.  child*

This will capture variations on the word child including but not limited to:

  • child
  • childs
  • children

Field Searching in PubMed

You can search a particular field in PubMed by selecting "Advanced" under the main search window.

This will direct you to the "Advanced Search Builder" page.

Click on the arrows next to "All fields" and select the specific field you wish to search.

Image showing the Advanced search Builder page with an arrow pointing out the dropdown arrows next to "All Fields"

A commonly chosen option is "Title".  This searches for the words found in an article title.

Type in the term(s) you would like found in the title field. (e.g. breast cancer)

Click the "Add" button.  This adds the search to the Query Box.

Screen capture of "PubMed Advanced Search Builder" page showing "Title" selected and the words "breast cancer" in the search box next to it.

PubMed adds the proper search syntax to the Query Box.  In this case...
breast cancer[Title]

Click "Search" to see the articles with breast cancer in the title.

Screen capture of the "Query box" showing the search "breast cancer[Title]".