Finding International Literature in PubMed

The overwhelming majority of publications in PubMed are from U.S. authors covering medical practice, training, and research in the United States. However, there are an increasing number of scholarly publications with authorship by practitioners and researchers located outside the United States.

In addition to the United States, there are more than 250 geographic locations listed in the PubMed Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) database. The majority of these locations are indexed to clinical or research papers written in English and authored by individual or corporate authors practicing medicine and conducting medical research in foreign locations.

Searching for international literature in PubMed is challenging. PubMed records include two fields dedicated to information on author affiliation: the “Affiliation” field which uses the suffix [AD] for a single author, or the “Corporate Authors” field which uses the suffix [CN]. Single author affiliation, however, was added exclusively for first authors prior to 2014. This poses a challenge to finding affiliation for collaborating authors on papers published prior to 2014. Additionally, although the presence of a geographic location as a MeSH term or in titles, abstracts, or author keywords points to papers published in that location, it does not guarantee local authorship.

There are two possible search strings for examining the international literature in PubMed. You can copy and paste one of the search strings below into the PubMed search box, replacing “location” with a country of your choice. Neither search string is ideal, searching with both might yield more relevant results.

You can focus both search strings further by adding a topic of interest or by using PubMed filters such as article types, ages, or publication dates, among others.

  1. (“location”[AD] OR “location”[CN] OR “location[PL]) AND English[LA]
    The retrieval for the above search string includes only citations with first author affiliation prior to 2014. It also might help to use a corporate author [CN] or publication place [PL], if present.
  2. (“location”[Mesh] OR “location”[TIAB] OR “location”[OT]) AND English[LA]
    The retrieval for the above search string includes papers about the selected location. Many, but not all will have local authors.

For further information, contact the HSLS Main Desk at 412-648-8866 or Ask a Librarian.

~Ester Saghafi