Note: quotation marks (that is, the 66 and 99 ones "...") are used only when they are explicitly required in the search being mentioned in this article. Whereas apostrophes are used to replace quotation marks in their usual roles in grammar.

PubMed Advanced Search Builder02:27

PubMed Advanced Search Builder

The advanced search builder, a tutorial by NCBI

Knowing how to correctly create a relevant search is vitally important for research whether it be recreational (like for me) or for work/study. This article just lists some of the major search parameters. PubMed has access to all of MEDLINE and is provided for free by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Boolean logicEdit

In order for two or more possible options to be searched, with the result containing at least one of the options listed, 'OR' is used to separate the these options. For example, see what happens with synonyms.

'AND' is used to make it a requirement that two or more options to be searched for simultaneously. For example if I want a word, say quetiapine, to be found in the title with all the results being review articles then I would search for,
(Quetiapine[TI]) AND review[PT]


Ordinary circular brackets '(...)' can be used to require that at least one of two or more possible options to be fulfilled whilst simultaneously requiring other options to be satisfied.

Square brackets '[...]' are used for tags.


Tags are designed to specify where in the publication or which property of the article (e.g., that it is written in English) is being specified in the search. They always go inside square brackets '[...]'. They always go immediately after the property or location of what is being specified in the search. There are two forms of these tags, their full form (their full name, usually) or their abbreviation (which are two letters long, sometimes longer codes may be possible). Tags are not case sensitive, that is,
and interchangeable.

Main topic(s)Edit

Knowing the main topic is very important as without it one will be casting their net too wide. Afterwards you place said topic and [TI] immediately after, for example, let the drug be dexamfetamine, then one would type it as 
 in the search. Although a word of caution is required, for systematic reviews[note 1] or eBooks this topic may not be in the title of the article, hence the [TI] component to the search may not be necessary.


The next important thing to consider is whether any medically-utilized synonyms exist. Dexamfetamine is a good example that was choosen deliberately for this purpose, see unlike Google PubMed does not automatically search for synonyms so the user has to input them themselves. 

For example, synonyms for dexamfetamine include dexamphetamine (the AAN), dextroamphetamine (USAN) and d-amphetamine. So what one has to do in order for PubMed to search for these synonyms is to manually insert them into the search. One does by placing a bracket before the dexamfetamine and a close bracket after the square bracket after Title and type between these two brackets,
OR dexamphetamine[TI] OR dextroamphetamine[TI] OR d-amphetamine[TI]
. Remember all capital letters are required for OR. So what this search so far looks like is, 
(Dexamfetamine[TI] OR dexamphetamine[TI] OR dextroamphetamine[TI] OR d-amphetamine[TI])

Publication typeEdit

Then one should type the desired AND publication type[note 2] with the abbreviated tag, 'pt'. Secondary sources[note 3] are usually preferable to primary sources as they usually summarize all available clinical data, both published and unpublished. 


eBooks are not easily available through the publication type search requirement. For free eBooks search this database [2] has virtually the same search parameters as PubMed and is hence consistent with the PubMed search descriptions in this article. Alternatives via the pt tag function as several different books are available through PubMed, so
AND (Handbooks[pt] OR textbooks[pt] OR herbal[pt])
is required instead.
So far this search looks like for eBooks,
(Dexamfetamine[TI] OR dexamphetamine[TI] OR dextroamphetamine[TI] OR d-amphetamine[TI]) AND (Handbooks[pt] OR textbooks[pt] OR herbal[pt])

Publication dateEdit

Publication date is a parameter that is added by adding to one's search,
 AND #param[dp]
where #param is in the format of one of the following: "last X Y",[note 4] date[note 5] or date1:date2[note 6]

If we limit our search so far to the last 5 years, one gets the following search:

(Dexamfetamine[TI] OR dexamphetamine[TI] OR dextroamphetamine[TI] OR d-amphetamine[TI]) AND (Handbooks[pt] OR textbooks[pt] OR herbal[pt]) AND "last 5 years"[dp]


The language parameter narrows down the possible language(s) (if there are more than one, they need to be separated using the 'OR' function) the article can be written in, in order for it to be picked up by your search. I, being capable of speaking, writing and reading only one language, English, usually type
AND English[LA]

If we further limit our search to just English results we get:

(Dexamfetamine[TI] OR dexamphetamine[TI] OR dextroamphetamine[TI] OR d-amphetamine[TI]) AND (Handbooks[pt] OR textbooks[pt] OR herbal[pt]) AND "last 5 years"[dp] AND English[la]

Subset and relatedEdit

Subset refers to text availability[note 7] or if it the result is a systematic review.


Journal is how one specifies the journal in which you would like to find the publication. Journal abbreviations (that are utilized by MEDLINE) may be used. The abbreviated tag for journal is TA. 

Other termEdit

These are mostly keywords and have the tag OT. 


How can this article be improved the most? Remember this poll is anonymous. Please choose ONE of the following:

The poll was created at 00:40 on September 15, 2014, and so far 0 people voted.

External linksEdit


  1. Like Cochrane reviews, that is ones in which there is usually a comparison between different drugs or other treatment interventions
  2. For example, review article, clinical trial report, eBook, etc.; see [1] for a list of acceptable publication types (copy their exact wording when you create this component of your search) in PubMed searches
  3. Namely reviews, meta-analyses, guidelines, consensus development conference or books
  4. Where X is an integer, Y is either days, months or years (i.e., the unit of time). Basically what this option means is that PubMed will search for results published within the last X Y,
  5. In the case of a specific date of publication, this is in the format of yyyy/mm/dd, for example, for the 4th of September 2013 it would appear as 2013/09/04
  6. In the case of date ranges, also in yyyy/mm/dd. 'date1' is the first date in a range of dates, 'date2' is the second date in the date range.
  7. For example, specifying whether PubMed has the link to the full text or free full text; abstract being available in PubMed requires 'hasabstract' being typed with no tag. This is the related referred to in the title of this section.


  • U.S. National Library of Medicine (9 July 2014). PubMed Help. Bethesda, USA: National Center for Biotechnology Information (US). Retrieved 14 September 2014. 

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