Skip to Main Content

Health: PubMed for UAA/APU

Tips for searching PubMed

Using MeSH to Search

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) is a list (thesaurus) of keywords or descriptors that describe articles in MEDLINE. Indexers scan an entire article and assign up to twenty MeSH terms to each article. Terms are chosen to cover both the central aspects of an article (major headings) and other significant information discussed (minor headings).

By using terms from the MeSH thesaurus, all articles on a given topic can be found regardless of the terminology used by the authors.

Use MeSH to:

  • Identify appropriate terms
  • Confirm definitions
  • Search by a subject
  • Build a search strategy
  • Apply subheadings
  • Focus search results
  • Limit or expand retrieval (the equivalent of Explode in CINAHL)

MeSH Database: 

Links to MeSH are found in the right column under the search box on the Home page, as an option if you click the down arrow to to the left of the search box (PubMed is the default choice), and after the abstract of an article, if MeSH terms have been applied to that article.  MeSH allows you to select specific subject headings and link that subject to specific subheadings to focus your search.

Note: Searching with only MeSH terms excludes the most current citations in process and publisher-supplied citations, as they are not indexed with MeSH.

Advanced Searching Tips

Search by Field

You can designate fields for searching by using the Advanced search Builder on the Advanced Search page. Use the pull-down menus to select a field before entering a term in the search builder box. Terms entered in the builder are automatically added to the search box. Note that the default Boolean operator is AND; if desired, choose OR or NOT from the pull-down menu.


Combining Search Statements

Found on the Advanced Search screen, History holds your search strategies and results from your current search session. There are two ways to combine your search statements:

  1. You may combine previous searches or add additional terms to an existing search by using the pound sign (#) before the search number in the builder box.

    #2 AND #6

    #3 AND drug therapy

  2. Click the search number to display additional options to add the search to the Builder, including Boolean operators OR or NOT.

MeSH Indexing Tips

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) Indexing Tips

By using terms from the MeSH thesaurus, all articles on a given topic can be found regardless of the terminology used by the authors.

Specificity -- Each article is indexed to the most specific MeSH terms available, e.g., an article on acne is indexed under acne, but not under skin diseases.

Near Match -- Articles with no exact match are indexed to the closest related MeSH term, e.g., seminal vesiculitis to seminal vesicles, pseudoappendicitis to appendicitis, nursing caps to clothing.

Two Terms -- The most precise way to cover a topic may be two MeSH terms in combination, e.g., jejunitis to jejunal diseases and enteritis.

Textwords -- It is assumed you will use textwords in some cases to define a subject, e.g., tobacco smoke pollution (MeSH term) and passive (textword) to retrieve passive smoking.

Check Tags -- Large-volume concepts are routinely "checked" for in each article by indexers. Check tags pinpoint specific age groups, males or females, humans or animals, publication types, etc.

Drugs -- Drugs are indexed under the generic name, e.g., valium is indexed to diazepam.

Medical Specialty -- There are separate terms for the medical specialty and the disease or organ, e.g., endocrinology is the specialty versus endocrine diseases or endocrine glands.

Neoplasms -- Neoplasms are indexed to site and histologic type, e.g., adenocarcinoma of the colon is indexed to both colonic neoplasms and adenocarcinoma.

Relational Concepts -- Some relational concepts cannot be indexed precisely, e.g., degrees of quality or quantity, specific time relationships, primary versus secondary except for neoplasms, general body positions. Try or experiment with textwords for these concepts. Even then you may not retrieve the relationship you wish.

Need Help?

Ask A LibrarianAsk A Librarian
Call, chat, email, or visit the reference desk.