In previous postings (listed at the bottom of the article), I described some of the advanced features in PubMed that you can use to quickly narrow the field of your search in PubMed. Recently I started working on some updates to BioGroovy’s PubMedSearch engine which led me to take a closer look at some of these advanced search capabilities. Here are a few of the fields that proved to be more useful in my own searches:
The Pharmacological Action field uses a controlled vocabulary of hundreds of methods of action. You can use this field to find papers that describe describe a particular mechanism of action. The Advanced Search Builder in PubMed will let you select from the allowable values. For me, I wanted to restrict my search to papers that described antineoplastic agents, so I entered “antineoplastic agents”[Pharmacological Action].
The Publication Type field can be used to narrow your search to cover reviews. This is useful when you’re just getting started with your research project, and you want to get a good idea of the “lay of the land”. You can start with some of the latest reviews, and then work your way through the References sections of those papers to find additional articles that you want to review. To do this simply enter: “review”[Publication Type]. You can also use “clinical trial”[Publication Type] or “clinical trial, phase ii”[Publication Type] if you want to restrict your search only to clinical trials.
After familiarizing yourself with the primary authors in a particular field, it’s often useful to restrict your searches to the institutions with which these thought leaders are associated. For example, if you wanted to restrict the search to papers coming from Johns Hopkins you would enter “Johns Hopkins”[Affiliation] as one of the search terms.