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NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Bookshelf Help [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Center for Biotechnology Information (US); 2005-.

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Bookshelf Help [Internet].

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Searching Bookshelf

Created: ; Last Update: February 11, 2019.

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

You may search across all content, or one book at a time in Bookshelf. To search across the Bookshelf, type a word or phrase into the Search box at the top of the Bookshelf homepage and click Search (see Search Tutorial video). The content of the Books database is searched, and a results page will be displayed according to the number of items found. Previous versions or editions of content in Bookshelf, and content that is no longer considered current by its authors/publisher, are only included in the search results when selected using the Facets function. See the Facets and Advanced Search sections for creating other specialized searches.

You may search one book at a time by selecting a book from the list of titles on the Browse Titles page. Simply click on the book’s cover image or hyperlink to view the Table of Contents page. There is a Search this book box located under the book’s title and details. Enter one or more terms to query the book. Your search results will be displayed on a separate page and Sorted by Relevance (See Displaying Your Search Results for more information, including additional sorting options). If the book has an “Archive” watermark on its pages, or a link at top of the page to a more recent version or edition in Bookshelf, then it will not be searchable unless you select to include previous versions or editions in the search results using the Facets search function.


You can limit your search by previous versions or editions, publication year, dates, resource type, and specific search fields by following these steps:


Choose from any of the filters available on the left side of the search results page.


To access specific search fields, click the Show additional filters link, select Search fields, and press Show. Then press Choose under Search fields at the bottom of the filters menu. Select a search field and click “Apply” to refine your search.


If necessary, make changes to the search terms in the search box or enter a new search term.


Click Search.


To clear specific search fields, select Clear next to the field you would like to eliminate. To clear all filters, click Clear all at the bottom of the filters menu.

Note: When Filters are selected, a Filters Activated message will display on the results page. To turn off Filters click Clear all.

For an example of how to use this feature, see the Using Facets Tutorial video.

Previous versions or editions

Previous versions or editions of content in Bookshelf, or content that is no longer considered current by its authors/publisher, will not be included in search results or be searchable unless you select this option.

Publication Date

To limit your search results by a book or resource’s publication date, choose one of the specific year options listed or choose the menu option Custom range to select a range of years.


Choose a date from the Added to Bookshelf in the last: menu selections to limit your search results by the date a book or chapter was added to Bookshelf, or choose the Custom range menu option to enter a specific date or date range.

Resource Type

The resource type restricts your search based on the category of material the resource represents, such as: Clinical Guidelines, Documentation, Medical Genetics Resources, Methods Resources, Microbiology Resources, Monographs, Reference Works, Statistical Works, Systematic Reviews, Textbooks, Toxicology Resources.

Search Fields

Use the Search fields filter to search for terms in a specific search field (term (See Search Field Descriptions and Tags for common search fields).

Displaying Your Search Results

When searching across Bookshelf, your results will automatically display as a list of books, Sorted by Relevance (see Figure 1) according to the number of results found. You can manually change the display of your search results by selecting from the various options within the Display Settings menu, including Sort by Title and Pub Date. Images containing your search term will display only in the Images search in Bookshelf panel (see Figure 2).

Figure 1. . Search across all books in Bookshelf.

Figure 1.

Search across all books in Bookshelf. The Display Setting options menu is set by default as Sorted by Relevance (A) according to the number of results found. Search results are grouped according to the book in which they appear. Each book includes a cover (more...)

Figure 2. . Images search in Bookshelf.

Figure 2.

Images search in Bookshelf. If there are four or more images containing your search term, an images panel will appear with the top four image results. Available figure captions and sources of figures in Bookshelf can be viewed by hovering over images (more...)

Search results from within books will be grouped automatically by the book unit having an Accession ID (example, chapter, section, appendix, etc) and Sorted by Relevance. The total number of results retrieved within each chapter or section will be displayed as a collapsible link below it (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. . Search within a book in Bookshelf.

Figure 3.

Search within a book in Bookshelf. The Display Settings options menu is set by default as Sorted by Relevance (A). The citation of the book you are within is displayed at the top of the results page (B). To modify your search within the book displayed, (more...)

Your search terms will be bolded or highlighted in your results if this is selected in your my My NCBI preferences. Your particular search terms will remain bolded or highlighted until you’ve conducted a new search query, you change your My NCBI preferences to not highlight search terms, or the next day.

Displaying the Search Details

The Search Details panel to the right of your search results shows the computer’s translation of your query using search terms, field limits, and search rules. To access the full Search Details information, click on the “See more…” link below the panel. The full information is presented in four parts:

Query Translation displays the search string used by the computer to query the database. Use this box to edit the query.

Search will execute the search in the Query Translation box.

URL will display the current search as a URL to bookmark for future use.

Result provides the total number of results retrieved.

Database shows the NCBI database you are using (Books).

User Query shows the search strategy entered as you entered it in the search box and any syntax errors generated by the query.

If your results are not what you expected, it is a good idea to check the Search Details page for the computer’s translation of your search to determine how to modify the query.

Note the Bookshelf search program may modify your search terms to enhance your retrieval. Untagged or unqualified terms that are entered in the Search box are matched (in this order) against a MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) translation table, a Digits translation table, the Full Author translation table, and an Author index.

The Bookshelf MeSH translation table contains:

  • MeSH terms
  • Concept phrases and keywords that are autogenerated or author-generated
  • Terms derived from the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) that have equivalent synonyms or lexical variants in English

The Digits translation table checks for publication dates, ISBNs, PMIDs for the books or documents, PMIDs for reference citations, and grant numbers.

The Full Author translation table contains full author names from all articles for which full names are provided to Bookshelf from the publisher. If the term is not found in the above tables, except for Full Author, and is not a single term, Bookshelf checks the author index for a match.

Creating Alerts

Users can create an alert to keep up to date on new search results for queries. This function requires a MY NCBI account. To use the Create alert function:


On the search results page, select Create alert from the menu beneath the search bar.


Select a name for your saved search (the tool automatically defaults to the search terms entered).


Confirm or change search terms.


Choose options to receive alerts, including:

  • Email update options
  • Email address
  • Schedule frequency and day to receive alerts
  • Report format
  • Number of items
  • Additional text

Saving and E-mailing Results and Searches

Using the Clipboard

The Clipboard provides a place to temporarily collect selected citations from your search queries. The Clipboard will be lost after 8 hours of inactivity in Bookshelf or on any of the other NCBI databases.

You may also save your search results indefinitely using My NCBI.

To add citations to the Clipboard:

In your search results, use the check boxes to select search results. To save all of your results do not click any check boxes.

Use Send to, and select Clipboard.

To view your selections, click the Clipboard panel items link.

To delete citations from the Clipboard:

Use the Remove from clipboard link to delete individual items, or use the check boxes to select items to delete, and then click the Remove selected items link.

To delete all citations from the Clipboard, do not select any items, click the Remove all link.

Saving as a Text File


In your search results, use the check boxes to select citations. You may move to other pages to continue your selections. If you do not make any selections, Bookshelf will save the entire retrieval.


From Send to, select File.


Your Web browser will prompt you to save the Bookshelf search results in a file on your computer.

E-mailing Results


In your search results, use the check boxes to select citations. To e-mail all citations displayed on the page, do not make any selections.


From Send to, select E-mail.


Choose selections for Format.


Enter an e-mail address. You may also enter additional text that will be included in the e-mail.


Click E-mail. The system returns you to your results page and displays a confirmation e-mail sent message.

You can read more about using the Clipboard, Saving as a Text File and E-mailing Results in Saving and E-mailing Results and Searches in PubMed Help.

This panel does not display image results from queries using Limits or Advanced Search.


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