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Library Resources for MSN Students: Exploring: PubMed

This guide provides information on how best to utilize library resources throughout your MSN program at the College of Nursing.

Vocabulary used on this page...


Limits and filters allow you to narrow the results down to only the ones that are most relevant. Common limits that are applied include: article type, date, and language.

Tip: the more limits and filters you set, the narrower your results will be. It is possible for you to limit your results all the way down to 0, so be careful.

Tip 2: do not limit by Full Text. As a student of ECU, you can receive the full text of articles either with your PirateID and password, or through our free Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service if ECU does not own a copy of the article. Electronic resources can be e-mailed to your ECU account.

Creating a personal account

Personal accounts in databases are free, and I strongly recommend creating an account for each database you may use. They are particularly valuable when you need to save your searches for longer than your current browsing period. Closing your browser almost always erases your search history; having a personal account allows you to save searches that you may want to look at again later.

To create an account in PubMed, click on Log In at the top right of the page.

Screenshot of PubMed homepage with arrow showing Login button

Next, click on Sign up, then Create a New NCBI Account, and follow the instructions to create your account.

Screenshot of PubMed Log in screen Screenshot of arrow pointing to Account creation button on PubMed Sign up page Screenshot of PubMed Sign up page

I recommend that you use a personal e-mail account rather than your ECU account for PubMed. This is because PubMed is a public resource, so you will always have access to it even after you graduate from ECU. By using your own personal e-mail address, you will be able to log in after graduation and retrieve all of your searches from your time at ECU.

Basic searching in PubMed

PubMed makes its basic search feature fairly simple. Just copy and paste the search string you created from your concept table into the search bar, then click Search.

(Nurse OR Nurses OR "Nursing personnel") AND ("Health literacy") AND (Rural OR "Rural areas" OR "Rural health centers" OR "Rural population" OR "Rural populations" OR "Rural health nursing" OR "Underserved populations")

Screenshot of PubMed search screen with arrow pointing to Search button

 After clicking Search, you will see the results page. You can apply limits and filters by clicking the words on the left-hand sidebar. Clicking on Additional filters will offer more options for filter types.

Screenshot of PubMed results page

Screenshot of PubMed Additional filters window

Select the ones you want to see, click on Show, and then click on the filters to apply them after the page has refreshed. As you select filters, PubMed will refresh the results page to display only those articles that meet the selected criteria.

PubMed uses a search feature called Automatic Term Mapping.  This feature allows PubMed to interpret your search terms and compare them against synonyms and other spellings. To see how PubMed interpreted your search, click on Advanced at the top of the page.

Screenshot of PubMed homepage with Advanced link circled

From the Advanced screen, you can scroll down to see your Search History and Details box. Click on the v beside Details to view how PubMed interpreted your search terms. Clicking Download allows you to save a .CSV file to save your search history.

Screenshot of Search details page on PubMed

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How to access the article

To access articles that look relevant to you, click on the article title to open the article page. Click on one of the links to the right to view Full Text of the article. The new Cite feature automatically generates citations in AMA, MLA, APA, and NLM citation styles. (Note: proofread these citations carefully before submitting any assignments.) Page through your results from the article record page by clicking the arrows to the right and left of the page. Use the record navigation menu on the right to jump down to specific areas of the article record. For instance, clicking on Similar Articles will quickly jump the page down to show you the articles that are related to this one.

Screenshot of elements of record page on PubMed

How to save articles

To save the article to a citation manager (like RefWorks, Zotero, Mendeley, or EndNote), click on Save from either the article page or the results page. In the Format menu, select .RIS file. Follow the prompts to save for your software.

Screenshot of record page on PubMed


Note: if you created an NCBI account, you can also save the articles by clicking on the ellipses button (...) and then selecting My Bibliography or Collections. Follow the prompts on these pages to save your articles to PubMed. You can also save articles as Favorites.

How to save your search

Searches can be saved if you created an NCBI account. To do this, click on the word Advanced under the search bar. Then, scroll down to your History and Search Details box. Click on the ellipses (...) in the Actions column, then choose Save to MyNCBI.

Screenshot of Search details on PubMed

Setting an alert will allow PubMed to run your search as frequently as you want it to, and you will receive e-mail alerts when new articles become available that meet your search criteria. To create an alert, click on Create Alert at the top of the page.

Screenshot of creating an alert on PubMed

Follow the prompts in the pop-up window that appears to determine the name of your saved search and frequency that you would like it to run.Screenshot of creating an alert in PubMed

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