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PubMed (EN): 3. Title/abstract

Why search with title/abstract?

If a word is used in the title or the abstract of an article then it is probably an important aspect in the article. If we were to search the full text of an article however, we would also get results that are less relevant due to casual mentions or brief comparisons. It is also possible that authors or research institutes have names that resemble search terms, these results we also want to leave out. The best results are therefore aquired by searching the title and the abstract. 

By combining the title/abstract search terms with thesaurus terms (MeSH terms in PubMed) we make sure we acquire the most relevant result. In the following step the different parts of our search will be combined. 

Truncation* and "double quotes"


By truncating a title/abstract term you can search for several variants of the term such as plurals and different forms of the word. The symbol in PubMed to truncate is an asterisk*. You can only use this at the end of a search term. The asterisk is used as a wildcard for 0, 1 or multiple letters. When for example searching for nematod*, you search for the terms nematode, nematoda and nematodes.


Double quotes

When "double quotes" are placed around two or more words then these words will be search in that specific sequence. In contrast with many other databases, PubMed places these double quotes around two or more search terms automatically. Keep this in mind when for example translating a search to another search engine. 

When you for example search for "lab safety" you only search for this specific sequence of words. You do not get results that contain these words separately, in another sequence, or with words in between them. 

Searching in search fields

In several large databases it is possible to search for certain aspects of an article, such as title/abstract, author name, ISBN, publication date etc. You can indicate these fields on the left side of the query box. 

Searching with title/abstract

To search in the title/abstract field, go to the 'Advanced Search' screen in PubMed. Clicking on 'All fields' will open a drop down menu in which you can select the option 'Title/Abstract'. You can enter your title/abstract terms in the upper query bar (next to Title/abstract) separated by OR and click 'Add'. The terms are now moved to the 'Query box', where your query will be built. Behind each of the search terms you can also find [title/abstract], which indicates the field that is searched. 

The other search terms that belong to the same element can be added in a similar fashion. Keep in mind that you select the option 'add with OR' (as opposed to AND or NOT), since you are connecting synonyms or related terms. 

If your PubMed history already contains MeSH terms that are related to the same element, you can connect these to the title/abstract terms using OR. To retrieve the MeSH terms and add them to the query box, press the three dots underneath 'Actions' beside your MeSH term, then select 'add with OR'. On the next page this process will be explained in more detail.