Skip to Main Content

PubMed: Basic Search

Basic Search

On the PubMed homepage, start by searching using the basic search bar. When you run a search, PubMed does more behind the scenes than meets the eye.

Gif showing a basic search for "aortic stenosis" from PubMed's basic search bar

How Does a Basic Search Work?

Most of the time, you'll search PubMed by simply entering your search terms in the search box.

But PubMed does more than just search for those words. It also uses Automatic Term Mapping to search for synonyms to your search terms in the MeSH vocabulary. Then it searches for your terms and those synonyms in all of the fields (author, journal title, article title, MeSH heading, author keywords, abstract, publication date, etc.) used to describe an article. You can view how PubMed has interpreted your search by checking the Search Details on the advanced searching page.

For example, in the simple search aortic stenosis, PubMed automatically searches for the MeSH term aortic valve stenosis, along with its basic synonyms in all fields:

Screenshot showing search details box for "aortic stenosis" search


In addition to automatically mapping relevant MeSH terms, the updated search algorithms in PubMed allow for words variations to be searched. For example, searching pediatrics will map to the MeSH term pediatrics, but also combine this with the additional word variations pediatricpediatricspaediatric, and paediatrics.

Screenshot showing search details box for "pediatrics" search


To search for a word or phrase with variant endings, use the truncation symbol * (asterisk). For example, educat* will retrieve education, educator, educational, etc.

Keep in mind that truncation symbols turn off Automatic Term Mapping, so relevant MeSH and related terms will not be mapped to the truncated term.