Medical subject headings mesh
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). The NLM Controlled Vocabulary. PubMed for Trainers, Spring 2014 U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and NLM Training Center. Objectives. By the end of this session, you should be able to: Define MeSH Explain why we use MeSH

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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

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Medical subject headings mesh

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

The NLM Controlled Vocabulary

PubMed for Trainers, Spring 2014U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and NLM Training Center



  • By the end of this session, you should be able to:

    • Define MeSH

    • Explain why we use MeSH

    • Explain the hierarchical structure of MeSH

    • Explore MeSH further

Medical subject headings defined

Medical Subject Headings Defined

  • Represent concepts found in the biomedical literature

  • Like keywords on other systems

  • Used to describe the subject of journal articles for MEDLINE

  • Used for cataloging books and audiovisuals

  • Used by searchers

  • Revised annually

  • Gives uniformity and consistency to the indexing of the biomedical literature

Medical subject headings mesh vocabulary

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH® Vocabulary)

Mesh headings examples

MeSH Headings (Examples)

  • Lung Neoplasms

  • Erythrocytes

  • Quality of Life

  • Diabetes Mellitus

  • Ascorbic Acid

  • Birth Order

  • Glycolysis

  • Patient Dropouts

Mesh entry terms example

MeSH Entry Terms (Example)

Entry Terms:

  • Neoplasms, Pulmonary

  • Neoplasm, Pulmonary

  • Pulmonary Neoplasm

  • Neoplasms, Lung

  • Lung Neoplasm

  • Neoplasm, Lung

  • Pulmonary Neoplasms

  • Lung Cancer

  • Cancer, Lung

  • Cancers, Lung

  • Lung Cancers

  • Cancer of Lung

  • Pulmonary Cancer

  • Cancer, Pulmonary

  • Cancers, Pulmonary

  • Pulmonary Cancers

  • Cancer of the Lung

Lung Neoplasms

Tumors or cancer of the LUNG.

Mesh tree structure

MeSH Tree Structure

  • Anatomy

  • Organisms

  • Diseases

  • Chemicals and Drugs

  • Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment

  • Psychiatry and Psychology

  • Phenomena and Processes

  • Disciplines and Occupations

  • Anthropology, Education, Sociology and Social Phenomena

  • Technology, Industry, Agriculture

  • Humanities

  • Information Science

  • Named Groups

  • Health Care

    V. Publication Characteristics

    Z. Geographicals

Mesh tree in use

MeSH Tree in Use

Mesh tree in use1

MeSH Tree in Use

Pop quiz take a guess

Pop Quiz (take a guess)

Subheadings examples

Subheadings (Examples)

  • Lung Neoplasms/diagnosis

  • Erythrocytes/classification

  • Quality of Life/legislation and jurisprudence

  • Diabetes Mellitus/rehabilitation

  • Ascorbic Acid/secretion

  • Birth Order/physiology

  • Glycolysis/genetics

  • Patient Dropouts/psychology

Subheading groupings examples

Subheading Groupings (Examples)

adverse effects





growth & development





cerebrospinal fluid








diet therapy

drug therapy


prevention & control





Publication types examples

Publication Types (Examples)

  • Review

  • Editorial

  • Letter

  • Interactive Tutorial

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III

  • Twin Study

Publication types in hierarchy

Publication Types in Hierarchy

Supplementary concepts

Supplementary Concepts

  • Part of MeSH Database

  • NOT full Headings

  • Used to quickly add vocabulary

  • Substances

  • Protocols

  • Rare Diseases

The mesh database

The MeSH Database

Medical subject headings mesh

The MeSH Database (cont.)



In the MeSH database, search for the wordFragaria.

Useful my ncbi features to use when searching with mesh

Useful My NCBI features to use when searching with MeSH

Click here

Open abstract supplemental data in my ncbi

Open Abstract Supplemental Data in My NCBI

Use of my ncbi highlighting when searching with mesh

Use of My NCBI /highlighting when searching with MeSH

Highlighting and open supplemental data

Highlighting and open supplemental data



  • MeSH is NLM's controlled vocabulary for subject indexing and searching MEDLINE/PubMed

  • There are four types of MeSH:

    • Headings

    • Subheadings

    • Publication Types

    • Supplementary Concept Records

  • MeSH uses synonyms known as Entry terms

  • MeSH is organized in a hierarchy or tree

  • Indexers designate the major points of articles as MeSH Major Topics

  • Use the MeSH Database to find MeSH terms

  • Use My NCBI Site Preferences to customize PubMed displays



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