PubMed Searching Step by Step

Open PubMed in another browser window to work through this tutorial side by side.

PubMed is the premier database for finding journal articles in the field of biomedicine.   PubMed also indexes a number of important scholarly journals in the area of nursing.

This tutorial demonstrates how to

  • search the database and focus your results using PubMed's filters
  • find peer-reviewed journal articles
  • link to the library’s e-journals
  • request articles through interlibrary loan (ILLiad) from other libraries.

Follow the steps in this left-hand panel to search PubMed, which is open in the right-hand frame.

If you are off-campus, you may have to log in first with your LDAP password (VU email ID and password). Use the navigation arrows at the bottom to advance through the tutorial.

Note that PubMed is a freely available database.  However, to see links to Falvey Library's electronic journals, you must log in at the library homepage. Start at ( Click Databases, A-Z and choose PubMed.

Click on the right arrow below to start.

Start Your Search

Let's search for journal articles on the topic of smoking cessation.

Because our keyword is composed of two separate words, we'll enclose them in quotation marks to keep them together as a single keyword.  Type "smoking cessation" in the search box. Click Search.


How many results did you retrieve?

As you can see, PubMed is a very extensive database with a wealth of journal articles. Let's use some of its powerful features to focus our results. 

Advance to the next screen.

Using PubMed Filters: Publication Dates

Along the left-hand side of the results screen you will see PubMed filters.

Let's limit our results to articles published during the most recent 5 years.  Under Publication dates click 5 years

publication dates filter

Notice that a check appears next to 5 years and the typeface becomes blue, indicating that this filter has been activated.

publication dates filter activated


How many results do you have now?

Note that, if we wish to limit to other time periods, such as the last 15 years, we could use the Custom range.  If we wish to deactivate this filter, we click clear.

Advance to the next screen.

Using PubMed Filters: Languages

PubMed is an international database.  Let's limit our results to articles published in English.

On the left-hand side of the page, scroll up and click Show additional filters. Note that some filters are already selected by default.

In the list of additional filters, click Languages.  While we're at it, click Journal categories too (we'll see why in a minute).  Then click Show.

additional filters

You can now click English.  Make sure there is a check next to English and that the type is blue.

How many results do you have?

Advance to the next screen.

Using PubMed Filters: Limiting to Nursing Journals

In this search we are interested in articles from nursing journals, so we check the Nursing journals option under Journal categories.


You should now have about 300 results.  

Advance to the next screen.

Adding More Search Terms

Let's focus our results to students.

In the search box, after "smoking cessation" type AND  students 
Be sure to type AND in upper-case letters.

additional keyword

You should now have about 30 articles or so, a very manageable number of results. 

So how do we access the full text of these articles?

Advance to the next screen.

Accessing Full Text of Articles

Click the title of an article that interests you.

click title

At the next screen you will usually see an abstract.  This is a summary of the contents of the article and it can help you determine if the article will be useful to your assignment.

In the upper right-hand corner of this screen, click the blue Find it button.  Do not click the publisher buttons, as you may be asked to pay.

findit button

At the next screen, click this button to connect to the full text of the article and download it to your computer:full_text_online

Scroll down a bit on the Find it screen and notice the (somewhat tiny!) Export to RefWorks link.  If you are using the citation management system RefWorks, you can export each reference by using this link. For more information on RefWorks, view this video:

Use your browser's back arrow to return to your search results.

Advance to the next screen.

Using ILLiad to Obtain Articles from Other Libraries

 We've decided to clear the Nursing journals filter so that we can consider articles from medical journals as well.

Sometimes when you  click Find it you will see this message:

 Sorry, this item is not available online.

This means that the library does not subscribe to the journal in which the article appeared. However, you can request this article from another library at no cost to you by clicking this button:


You will connect to ILLiad, the library's interlibrary loan system. Log into ILLiad with your Villanova University LDAP ID and password (the password you use to access your VU email).


You may have to set up an account at this point. Submit your account information if prompted for it, and close the ILLiad account window. Click a second time on Get a scan to open a pre-completed request form. You will be notified via email when the pdf file of the article has been deposited into your ILLiad account. Articles usually arrive in 2 to 5 business days.

Use your browser's back button to return to your search results.

Advance to the next screen.

Capturing Your Results

You can download, email, or print your selected results. 

Place a check next to the items you wish to capture.  Then click Send to and choose File to download or E-mail.

capturing results

Note that the options Collections and My Bibliography are useful if you have created a personal MyNCBI account.  For more information about MyNCBI account features, view the videos located at

The Citation manager option will allow you to export multiple selected citations as a specially formatted file that can be imported into citation management systems such as RefWorks.  Download this guide for more information:

Advance to the next screen.


See how much you've learned about searching PubMed by taking this short quiz.


PubMed is the premier database for searching the biomedical literature.  It also indexes some important scholarly journals in the area of nursing.


To check for full text, first click the title of an article.  Then at the next screen click

You can focus your PubMed results by using

If you see the message "Sorry, this item is not available online," can you still obtain the full text at no cost?

Advance to the next screen.

Please enter your name and email address to retrieve a copy of your completed quiz.

You can enter multiple email addresses separated by commas. If you are doing this for a class, you may need to enter your instructor's email address also.