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MCASOM - Searching the Literature Selective: Objectives & Requirements

Objectives and Requirements


This selective will introduce students to the basics of searching the literature including a review of citation databases with a focus on PubMed, the use of MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) vs. keywords, and understanding the differences between searching for research and searching for clinical questions.


  • Students will understand the basic concepts of literature searching.
  • Students will understand the use of MeSH terms vs. keywords.
  • Students will be able to save their search strategies to return to them later.


  • Review searching tips and techniques for PubMed.
  • Conduct two literature searches. 1) a research topic of interest to you and 2) a clinical question, such as something that might come up when discussing a patient/particular patient population.
  • Show your work for the searches. Bullet points are acceptable, but include a paragraph or two that is your reflection on the searching process.
  • Meeting with Librarian

***Show your searching work. Think about keywords, medical subject headings (MeSH), and synonyms. Be sure you are asking only one question per search. Precise searching can retrieve better results. Will you use filters (left side of PubMed search screen)? As you think through your searches, write out your thought process. For example, “I’m filtering to English language because I can’t read other languages. I’m limiting to past 5 years because this is a very new technology. This synonym might catch the newer articles.” …and so on. In addition, you may find the worksheet at the bottom of this page helpful to you as a way to organize your thoughts.


For your clinical question, click on Clinical Queries on the PubMed home screen. How does searching there compare to regular searching?

For your research question, consider the pros and cons of various filters. Will they contribute bias to your research?


Finally, run your searches and reflect on the results you get. Are they what you expect? Do you need to consider different words? Too many results or not enough? Write a couple of paragraphs to reflect on your experience. Don't forget to save your search strategies if you might need them in the future.


Mentors: Cynthia Beeler (MN), Lisa Marks (AZ), Tara Brigham (FL)