Subject analysts examine each article and assign the most specific MeSH terms applicable, with a related subheading; typically ten to twelve headings per citation. In PubMed, the major topic is represented by an asterisk.
In the MeSH Database, use Restrict to MeSH Major Topic to limit a search to citations where that term is the major focus of the article. The term is added to the search builder will be followed by [MAJR] (e.g. "Neoplasms"[Majr])
Subheadings help describe more completely a particular aspect of a topic. In the MeSH database, subheadings logically paired with the main heading are presented. Check the appropriate box(es), then use the Add to search builder button with OR to build a search.
In this example, the search would include: ("Neoplasms/analysis"[Mesh] OR "Neoplasms/epidemiology"[Mesh])
Search PubMed directly by using specific MeSH headings, subheadings and other qualifier codes; case does not matter. For the complete list, visit PubMed Help and the Search Field Descriptions and Tags link.
MeSH Heading: [mh] or [MeSH] may be added to a term to restrict a search to only MeSH terms (e.g. knee [mh])
Subheadings: Two letters may be used for subheadings. Therapy is th; so cancer/therapy and cancer/th are equivalent searches
A search may also "free float" headings [mh] and subheadings [sh] (e.g., hypertension [mh] AND toxicity [sh])
Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy: use [mh:noexp], [majr:noexp] or [sh:noexp] to restrict searches to articles focusing on the broadest MeSH term
Assistance and Training
Help and Tutorials links are available. Find additional information in the MeSH Browser at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/mesh/. Funded under Contract No. HHS-N-276-2011-00005-C with the University of Illinois at Chicago and awarded by the DHHS, NIH, National Library of Medicine. This resource is freely available at: http://nnlm.gov/training/resources/meshtri.pdf
Reviewed: June 2015
The National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) is the controlled vocabulary used for indexing PubMed citations. Available at: PubMed.gov.
MeSH provides a consistent way to retrieve information where different terms are used by authors for the same concept. MeSH terms apply only to Indexed for MEDLINE citations.
Use subheadings to build complex and focused search strategies
Focus searches using other types of MeSH terms including publication types [pt], pharmaceutical actions [pa], or substance names [nm]
The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), an outreach program of NLM, provides assistance and training nationwide. To find a local library, please call 800-338-7657 or go to http://nnlm.gov/members/
Access MeSH in PubMed from the drop-down menu OR click on MeSH Database from the PubMed homepage.
Enter a topic into the Search bar and click the Search button. Possible results include: a single fully displayed term (e.g. prognosis), several terms (e.g. measles) or a related term (e.g. cancer in this example).
Note: Always verify that the definition of the term matches the expected definition.
MeSH terms are arranged hierarchically by subject categories with more specific (narrower) terms arranged beneath broader terms. PubMed automatically explodes searches to include all narrower terms.
An unrestricted search for neoplasms will include articles which focus on the main term (neoplasms), but also focus only on a narrower terms (e.g. urachal cyst).
Check Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy for articles focusing only on the main term and eliminating those focusing on narrower terms.
NOTE: Focus a search by using the MeSH hierarchy to identify appropriate broader or narrower terms or to find additional search terms. Click on terms to access them.