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Publication Tracking : Searching for an Individual Author in PubMed

Overview

This page gives tips on how to search for an individual author in PubMed. Click here to access this information as a downloadable PDF.

Click here to access a PDF containing search templates and examples of searching for an individual author in PubMed.

Creating Your Search

1. Construct a Broad Search Strategy

You will want to begin by using the broadest and least limiting search terms to ensure you do not inadvertently exclude relevant publications.

To do this, start with your most basic search of last name and first initial, and then add the PubMed author field tag [au] to the end of the name. So, for example, if you wanted to search for publications by a Dr. John E. Doe, your initial search would look like this:

 

Doe J[au]

 

With this search, you will be retrieving publications with authors that have the last name of Doe, and a first initial of J. In consequence, this search will be likely to retrieve most all relevant results for the author, but it will also be including a lot of irrelevant results as well (e.g. authors whose names are John P. Doe, Jason Doe, or Janet Doe, etc.).

 


2. Limit Your Search by Author's Middle Initial

If you want to narrow your search, you can limit it by including the author's middle initial. However, you will want to correct for name ambiguity in your search, to ensure you will not miss relevant results. For example, the author, John E. Doe, may write their name in different ways in their publications (e.g. sometimes they may be referred to as J Doe, without a middle initial, or as J E Doe in a PubMed record). To correct for this, you will want to include name variations in your search, just like in the strategy used below:

 

"Doe J"[au] OR Doe JE[au]

 

This search will retrieve any articles that either have J. Doe or J.E. Doe in the author field. The quotation marks around "Doe J" ensures that PubMed will only retrieve articles that list J Doe but that do not include a middle initial. So, for example, a search of Doe J, without quotation marks, such as in your first search, will retrieve articles with authors like J M Doe, J P Doe, etc., whereas "Doe J" in quotation marks will only retrieve authors listed as J Doe. This way, we will be retrieving articles regardless of whether John E Doe decides to include their middle initial or not in their paper, but we won't be retrieving as many irrelevant results, like we did in the first search.

 


3. When Possible, Include ORCID ID

ORCID IDs are like a social security number for researchers. If consistently included in publications and updated by the researcher, they can solve the issue of name ambiguity when searching for publications. For more information on ORCID IDs, visit the ORCID ID research guide.

If the author you are searching for happens to have an ORCID ID, you can include it in your search. To do this, you will add the ORCID ID using OR, just like you would add an alternative name for the author, and use the [auid] field tag, like so:

 

"Doe J"[au] OR Doe JE[au] OR 0000-0003-0799-4776[auid]

 


4. Limit Your Search by Author Affiliation

You can further limit your results by including an author's affiliation information in your search. However, just like author names, affiliations are subject to name ambiguity. Affiliations in PubMed are not standardized, and can be represented in multiple ways. So, for example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison can be listed as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW, UW-Madison, University of Wisconsin, etc. To correct for this, you will want to include name variations in your affiliation search string by using OR, just like you did for your author names.You will also be adding the affiliation field tag [affil].

You will then combine this with your author search by using AND, and enclosing each search string in parentheses. So your search would look like this:

 

("Doe J"[au] OR Doe JE[au] OR 0000-0003-0799-4776[auid]) AND (wisconsin[affil] OR madison[affil] OR UW[affil] OR wi[affil] OR wisc[affil])

 

Depending on how comprehensive you would like your search to be, you may also want to consider adding past affiliations to your search (e.g. if John Doe worked at another institution before they began working at UW-Madison).If you decide to do this, you would simply combine these past affiliations with the current ones by using OR. So, for example, if John Doe worked at the University of Iowa before coming to UW-Madison, and you wanted to include their Iowa publications as well, your search may look something like this:

 

("Doe J"[au] OR Doe JE[au] OR 0000-0003-0799-4776[auid]) AND (wisconsin[affil] OR madison[affil] OR UW[affil] OR wi[affil] OR wisc[affil] OR iowa[affil] OR uiowa[affil] )

 


5. Limit Your Search by Date

An additional way you can narrow your search results is to limit your results by a specific date range. Just like before, you would combine this search string with your author name search by using AND, and enter you dates in year/month/day format followed by the publication date field tag [pdat].

So, for example, If you wanted to only retrieve publications by John Doe between the dates of January 1st, 2019 and December 1st, 2019, your search would look something like this:

 

("Doe J"[au] OR Doe JE[au] OR 0000-0003-0799-4776[auid]) AND (2019/01/01:2019/12/01[pdat])

 

If you wanted to your search to be more specific, you could add your publication date search string to your affiliation search, like so:

 

("Doe J"[au] OR Doe JE[au] OR 0000-0003-0799-4776[auid]) AND (wisconsin[affil] OR madison[affil] OR UW[affil] OR wi[affil] OR wisc[affil] OR iowa[affil] OR uiowa[affil] ) AND (2019/01/01:2019/12/01[pdat])

 


Helpful Tips

Useful strategies for distinguishing researchers:

  • Research area: not typically a searchable field in databases, but can be determined from publication title and topic, and is helpful in distinguishing a researcher
  • Co-authors: researchers often publish with researchers in their department or the same group of researchers, which can help in distinguishing a researcher

PubMed's date filter:

  • Entering 3000 as your end date (e.g. 2019:3000[pdat]) will ensure that PubMed is retrieving any and all of its most current articles.

Too many results? Try this affiliation search instead:

(((wisconsin[affil] OR wi[affil] OR wisc[affil] OR wis[affil] OR UW[affil]) AND (Madison[affil] OR “school of medicine and public health”[affil] OR SMPH[affil])) OR wisconsin-madison[affil] OR UW-madison[affil])

How Do I Interpret These Searches?

Boolean Operators (AND and OR)

OR is used to combine synonyms together. For example, a search of parent OR guardian is going to retrieve publications that have the word parent, the word guardian, or both the words parent and guardian in them.

AND is used to combine concepts together. For example, a search of parent AND guardian is going to retrieve publications that have BOTH the words parent and guardian in them. If a publication has the word parent, and not the word guardian, your search will not retrieve that publication.

 

Visualization of how Boolean works  In the example on the left, I’m using OR to combine two synonyms. This is helpful when your are searching for a concept and you want to combine all keywords related to that concept. parent OR guardian retrieves results that either contain the term parent or guardian, or both the terms parent and guardian  The example on the right shows what happens when you combine search terms using the Boolean operator AND. Using AND is most effective when combining different concepts. For example, parent AND guardian only retrieves results that contain BOTH the terms parent and guardian. So, in this example, if an article has the term parent but not the term guardian, your search will not retrieve the article. While using AND retrieves less results than using the Boolean Operator OR.


Parentheses ( )

Parentheses are used in much the same way you would use them in a math equation, where OR is an addition symbol and AND is a multiplication symbol. A search of (cat OR feline) AND (dog OR canine) is going to retrieve publications that have both the words cat and dog, or cat and canine, or feline and dog, or feline and canine in them.


Field Tags [ ]

These tell PubMed where to search in the article for your terms.

  • [au] searches the author field
  • [affil] searches the affiliation field
  • [pdat] searches the publication date field

Quotation Marks " "

These tell PubMed to search for two or more words as an intact phrase. So, for example, searching "young adult" is going to search for that intact phrase, whereas searching young adult, without quotation marks, will look for articles that have young and adult anywhere in the article, regardless of how apart those two words might be in the article (e.g. it could retrieve an article that says "the young polar bear was now an adult."