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Veterinary Medicine: Guide to Library Resources: Tips for Searching
the Veterinary Literature

Resources, tips, and techniques for searching the veterinary literature.

Before You Start...

Save yourself time & aggravation by thinking about your search for information before you get too far down the primrose path...

1.  Choose the right tool for the job
      What kind of information do you need? Background information available in a textbook, or the latest primary research available in a journal article?

2.  Know thy search engine
      What's included in your resource? What's not included? How does it search?

3.  Think before you search 
      Break your topic into concepts. Think about your keywords, synonyms, alternative spellings

4.  Searching is an iterative [repetitive] process
      There's no one perfect search engine (or one perfect way to get to the information)

General Tips

Truncation  - find all words starting with the letters you have typed.   CAUTION: use truncation carefully in PubMed. Truncation turns off the automatic term mapping feature -- try your search without truncation first. Most common truncation symbol is the asterisk * Note: think before you truncate (or, why cat* is a bad idea...)
Ex, obes* = obese, obesity
      child* = child, childhood, childlike, children

Wildcard - used to substitute letters inside a word
Ex. wom*n = woman OR women
      colo*r = color OR colour

Exact Phrase - use quotation marks around your term to get that exact phrase
Ex. "high fructose corn syrup"

Field Searching - you can search specifically in the title, the abstract (summary), or by author.   
Most databases have pull down menus that let you select which field you want to search.

Subject Searching - many databases "tag" or add terms to the articles. The agree-upon, controlled terms used are often called subject heading or descriptors. In PubMed, the terms are called MeSH (Medical Subject Headings). Subject searching allows you to bring similar articles together even if the keywords used are different.

Species Names - when searching the veterinary literature, think about different terminology used for your species
Ex. horse, equine, equus

Boolean or Combined Searching

Your searches will work best in most databases if you break your topic apart and then combine the concepts with AND/OR.  This is called Boolean logic and is named after a mathematician

AND  - narrows your searches
   Ex.  Obesity AND Sugared drinks


OR - broadens your searches
    Ex. sugared drinks OR sweetened beverages OR soft drink*

 Most databases will have pull down boxes where you can select AND or OR.

You can also use these together by using parenthesis.
     (obesity OR overweight) AND (sugared drinks OR sweetened beverage* OR soft drink* OR juice OR sports drinks)

The above in pictures 
   OR - gets all the info from both circles


AND - gets only the info where the circles overlap

Need more visual? Try Boolean Pizza!

PubMed Tips

Use the PubMed links provided by the Libraries, especially from off campus.

  • Access PubMed from a Library page or bookmark this URL
  • This "MU Version" of PubMed will link you to the full text of the article. If you go straight to, you'll likely be asked to pay for an article.
  • The FindIt@MU button will link you to the full text or let you request a copy if we don't have it electronically. You'll see the FindIt@MU button on the Abstract view.
  • When you're on campus or using VPN, the Publisher link will often work just fine -- use the FindIt@MU button if the publisher link doesn't work.
  • When you're off-campus, use the FindIt@MU button. You'll be asked to log in with your SSO. More info on accessing library resources from off-campus

What's the article about? Check the MeSH terms.

  • The power of PubMed is in the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). Indexers (actual people!) at the National Library of Medicine read each article and tag it with MeSH terms to let you know what the article is about. You'll see a link to "MeSH Terms" in the full record. Terms with an asterisk indicate a focus of the article. Note: new articles might not yet have their full MeSH indexing.
  • PubMed also does what's called "Automatic Term Mapping." If you search for "canine," PubMed automatically includes results on "dogs," the official MeSH term.
  • You can see what PubMed is doing by looking at the "Details." The Details are on the Advanced Search page, in the "History and Search Details" section.

Overwhelmed with "human" results? Try adding "veterinary" to your search.

  • Adding "veterinary" to your search will not only search for the term as a keyword, but as a subheading
  • The veterinary subheading is used for naturally occurring diseases in animals, or for diagnostic, preventive, or therapeutic procedures used in veterinary medicine  So, an article with the MeSH term "Asthma/veterinary" lets you know that the article is about asthma in veterinary patients even if "veterinary" doesn't appear anywhere else in the record.

Looking for treatment information? Try Clinical Queries.