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PubMed @ UMSL

Step-by-step guide to PubMed's basic and advanced features, with downloadable handouts.


Click the Log In link, located in the top right corner of the blue page header, to sign into or register for a free My NCBI account. With this account, you can:

  • Save searches
  • Store citation collections
  • Set personal preferences and display formats
  • Develop and save personal filter options
  • Receive alerts through automatic email updates and RSS feeds of saved searches

When you click on the Log In link for the first time, you will be prompted to create a username and password. Once you've logged in, the Log In link will be replaced with your username. 

Saving Citations in Collections

PubMed allows you to save citations indefinitely using My NCBI Collections. 

To save citations, select them by checking the small box to the left of each article and choose Collections from the Send to menu. If you wish to save all of your results (1,000 maximum), do not make any selections. 

Options for the Send to button: Clipboard, My Bibliography, Collections, and Citation manager

On the next screen, you will be asked whether you want to create a new collection or add to an existing one. 

Options when creating a new collection    Options when adding to an existing collection

 TIP  My NCBI provides a Favorites folder as a default collection, but you may find it helpful to create a new collection for each paper or assignment.

Saving Searches

To save a search, first sign into My NCBI and run a search, then click on the Create alert link beneath the search bar. 

Link to create an alert

On the next screen, you can edit the name of the saved search, enroll in e-mail updates of newly added citations if desired, and change the settings for the email updates. The e-mail address associated with your My NCBI account will be used as the default address. Click Save when finished customizing.

Options when creating an alert

Retrieving Citations and Searches

Account menu available after logging into My NCBI

To retrieve collected citations or saved searches, click your account username in the top right corner of the blue page header and select Dashboard. This will pull up the My NCBI homepage (as shown below). The default location of the Saved Searches module is on the right side, and the Collections module is immediately below it.

My NCBI homepage, showing the following modules: Search NCBI Databases, My Bibliography, and Recent Activity on the left side; and Saved Searches, Collections, and Filters on the right side. In the top right corner of each module are a collapse/expand toggle arrow and a delete button.

In the Saved Searches module of the image above, notice that 2 new records related to the hearing loss cognitive function mental health search have been found since the search was run 13 days earlier.

You can run searches directly from your my NCBI homepage, either from the Search NCBI Databases module or by clicking on one of the searches shown in the Recent Activity module. However, if you’d rather return to the main PubMed search page, click on the PubMed link in the POPULAR column at the bottom of the page.

Customizing the My NCBI Homepage

Four links at the top of the My NCBI homepage: Customize this page, NCBI Site Preferences, Video Overview, and Help.

You can customize your My NCBI dashboard and site preferences to your liking. On the dashboard, you can collapse a module by clicking on the arrow in its top right corner. You can also move modules around on the page.

Near the top right corner of the homepage, you will see several links. The first, Customize this page, takes you to a page that explains the purpose, features, and suggested uses each of module and allows you to choose which ones appear on your homepage.

Page allowing the user to customize which modules are active on the My NCBI homepage. Options include My Bibliography, Recent Activity, Collections, Saved Searches, Filters, SciENCV, NCBI Search, and BLAST History. An explanation and suggested uses accompany each module.

Customizing My NCBI Site Preferences

You can customize settings throughout PubMed by clicking the NCBI Site Preferences link in the top right corner of your My NCBI homepage. 

 NOTE  If you search PubMed without first logging into My NCBI, you will not see any customizations in effect.

Top three categories of the NCBI Site Preferences customization page: Common, PubMed, and PMC Preferences. Preference options can be accessed through links on this page.

The first 2 categories contain some helpful preferences:

  • Highlighting allows you to select how your search terms appear in results. For instance, you can make them bold or assign a highlight color, such as blue or bright yellow.
  • Auto Suggest lets you turn on or off whether suggestions appear as you type terms into the search box. 
  • Abstract Supplemental Data allows you to decide whether an article's supplemental data (MeSH terms, publication types, etc.) expand automatically at the bottom of an abstract. 

Expandable supplementary information section

  • Filters & Icons allows you to choose filters that will be available to you for every search, such as Nursing Journals or Free Full Text. You can also create custom filters based on specific search terms (including terms PubMed extrapolates from your keywords; see Search Details).
    •  NOTE  You will still need to select the filters manually, but you won't have to customize them each time as you would if you're not logged into My NCBI.
  • Author Information lets you determine whether additional information about an article's author(s) (shown below) will be visible automatically.

Expandable author affiliations section

  • Result Display Settings allows you to specify how results will be displayed each time you run a search. You can choose the default format (either summary or abstract), default number of items per page, and default sort preferences.