Literature Searching

Refine Search Terms

Use any of the PubMed search tips and tricks below to refine your search terms. 

  • Field tags to tell the database where to search
    • [tiab] = title & abstract
    • [tw] = textword = title, abstract, author provided keywords and few other fields
    • [mesh] = Medical Subject Heading
    • [au] = author
  • Truncation - to search for all terms that begin with a word, enter the word followed by an asterisk (*) 
    • At least four characters must be provided in the truncated term
    • “Mobile health app*” = mobile health app, mobile health apps, mobile health application, etc.
  • Phrase searching - to search for a specific phrase, enclose the phrase in double-quotes (" ")
    • “Mobile health technology”
    • Not all terms can be searched as a phrase
  • All field tags (except [mesh]) and truncation terminate “automatic term mapping” function which maps the search terms to the corresponding MeSH terms and synonyms
  • Nesting - use parentheses ( ) to keep concepts that are alike together,
    • diabetes AND (mobile health app OR telemedicine OR Mhealth)
  • If you get “zero” result, check the spelling!

Search in PubMed

Once you have put together your search string, you can copy and paste it into the PubMed search bar.

PubMed search string

("Diabetes Mellitus"[Mesh] OR “diabetes”[tw]) AND ("Telemedicine"[Mesh] OR "Mobile Applications"[Mesh] OR “mobile health technolog*”[tw] OR “mobile health app*”[tw] OR "mhealth"[tw] OR “smartphone app*”[tw] OR telehealth[tw]) AND (“in-person”[tw])

Click here to view results in PubMed



Too few results:

If you're getting too few results, reassess your search strategy by changing/removing terms. 

1. Choice of search terms

  • Was there a concept or search term that is too broadly defined?
  • Are there too many search terms?
  • Begin with a few terms that best represent your topic and add others as needed
  • Avoid long phrases and stop words like "the," "for," "of," "after," etc

2. Use of Boolean operators (AND/OR)

  • Are the synonyms and search concepts combined correctly?

3. Narrow topic

  • Highly specific topics may be too narrow to find results. Try a broader related concept.

5. Database choice

  • Databases have different areas of focus. Consult with a Lane librarian. 

Too many results:

If you're getting too many results to manage, you can go to Step 6 or reassess your search strategy. 

1. Go to Step 6 apply limits

2. Add additional search concepts

  • Adding additional search concepts using AND can narrow your results

3. Choose more narrow search terms

  • Example: instead of 'cancer,' find a more specific term such as 'leukemia'