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  • Writer's pictureEnvironmental Health Project

PubMed: The Research Tool That Delivers Results

What is PubMed?

PubMed is a free, online resource that allows users to search and retrieve medical and life sciences literature with the aim of improving health, both globally and personally. It is a service of the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, and the National Institutes of Health.

The PubMed database contains more than 34 million citations and abstracts, including articles about PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) as well as shale gas development.

The database contains reliable, up-to-date information that can be used in health education and promotion efforts within your community and to inform advocacy efforts.

This tool can be accessed anywhere, any time, and on any device for free. To access this tool, go to

How to use PubMed?

In the center of the page, you will see a search bar where you can type specific keywords related to your topic of interest.

First, you can start by searching PFAS—the most commonly used term for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Once entered, thousands of results containing the acronym PFAS were found in the database, including some results that are not relevant:

Because searching the term PFAS gave us an extensive list, filters on the left of the screen can be used to narrow the list of articles. For example, you can select to filter out everything except for full-text articles published within the last five years. This helps to significantly narrow your search and display only recent articles.

For each article displayed in your results list, you will be able to see the full name of the article, author(s), and year of publication, as well as the first few sentences of the abstract. If this piques your interest, you may click the link to see the full abstract. The “Free PMC article” label indicates where you can access the full text of an article for free. Not all articles are available for free, so using this filter can narrow your search if you don’t want to pay for content.

By spelling out the acronym for PFAS, the search yielded fewer results containing the words per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the database than the first search using the term PFAS.

A few search tips:

  • Carefully consider the keywords used in your search. Fewer words will provide a wider range of results.

  • If your keywords do not generate the types of articles in which you are interested, try using different terms. You can search as many times as you like.

  • Applying filters helps to narrow the results list for topics that generate many articles.

  • Remove filters to screen the results yourself.

Why use PubMed?

PubMed is a very powerful tool when looking for research and articles related to health and medicine. Journals are vetted before being included in the PubMed database, making it a reliable and authoritative resource. Best of all, the service is free and publicly available.

PubMed makes finding journal information easy from anywhere you can access the internet. With the basic search tool, you can enter your search terms without operators or formatting. The search tool may suggest additional words to help narrow your search. For example, if you enter PFAS, the tool will suggest adding exposure, toxicity, health, cancer, or human as search terms. The search tool uses many additional tools in the background to help make your search as relevant as possible.

PubMed also serves as a quality resource for those looking to support local health advocacy campaigns with reliable research. Not all studies are available for free, but PubMed offers PubMed Central, which has an extensive full-text archive. As noted above, PubMed Central can be searched using the Free Full-Text filter. Keep in mind that, even if the full text is unavailable, you will still have access to the abstract, which will provide an overview of the study’s investigation and the conclusions reached.

For more information on exploring the functionality of this database and to see a full user guide, visit

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Developed resources reported in this blog post are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number: UG4LM013724. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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