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October 07, 2008 [posted]

Improving the Odds for Title Searching in PubMed®

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Searchers often copy an article title from another source then paste it into PubMed for a search. If a phrase in the title matches with an author name it can cause the search to fail. To improve title searching, PubMed now ignores phrases that match with author/investigator names that are made up only of stopwords (e.g., During A, May BE, Just BY). For example, in the search for the title, Prediction of performance level during a cognitive task from ongoing EEG oscillatory activities, the phrase, during a, is ignored and the search retrieves the expected citation. This special effect occurs when the phrase is part of a string of other words, none of which have search tags. When a name is entered by itself, e.g., just by, it is interpreted as a name search. To search for an author name (that matches with stop words) plus other terms, use an author search tag, e.g., just by [au] AND seizure.

A list of stopwords is available in [link removed] Help. Be aware that "pasted in" title searches can still fail when a phrase in the title matches a name that is not made up of stopwords as these are not ignored. The field searching capability of the Advanced Search screen is a recommended alternative.

By Annette M. Nahin
MEDLARS Management Section

Nahin AM. Improving the Odds for Title Searching in PubMed® NLM Tech Bull. 2008 Sep-Oct; (364):e10.

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