3. FIT-IH: PubMed Special Features
If your trip down the Information Highway has been slowed by an avalanche of references PubMed has several features that will help you refine your search. Among these are quotation marks, Limits, History, and Related
The easiest to use feature is quotation marks around a phrase e.g. changing the phrase < hearing aid > (with 7,673 results) to the phrase < "hearing aid" > (with 2,440 results). The search logic is the same as eBay's; the
phrase must exactly match your terms within the quotation marks.
For fine tuning, PubMed offers a series of tabs on the Features Bar, under the Search Box. My two favorite links are Limits and History.
The Limits feature allows you to only search specific subsets of the database. The ones I use most often are:
If you don't want to read thousands of articles, you might want to set a few
of these limits for your search. The more limits you add, the more precise
the search becomes, the fewer results you'll get. You may end up with zero
results if you are too specific. By limiting your language to English you
will lose some good information, but how well do you read Hebrew or Polish?
Unless you are doing extensive research or have a very esoteric topic I find
limiting the results to English language saves results sifting time.
History allows you to do some basic searches to get a feel for what's there, and later combine these searches to narrow the results. Enter your search in the Search Box and click on the Go button. For next search clear the
Search Box and enter the next search terms. To combine your searches go to History (tab on the Feature Bar). Your searches will all be listed with a Search Number. To combine searches follow the example at the top of the page; e. g. < #2 AND #4 >. Click the Go button and PubMed will execute the new search and show the number of references found. To see them click on the number in the Result column. The standard Boolean logic operators
Another helpful feature, located in the search results area, is the "Related Articles" link to the right of each reference. If you find an article that looks good to you click on the "Related Articles" link. This will cause
PubMed to search for other articles with the same indexing terms. You will get search results that are a clone of the original article with about 90% of the DNA you are looking for. Unlike Google's "Similar Pages" this
feature actually does work. It can, however, occasionally send you off far into left field, so don't rely only on this link to refine your search strategy.