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Home Tutorials PubMed Tutorial Advanced Search/Using MeSH

Advanced Search/Using MeSH

What is MeSH?

MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings—think of them as the “official” keywords used by PubMed. This helps us when a concept, such as strength training, may be described using a number of different terms. For example, let’s say three different authors write articles about strength training:

  • Author 1 uses the term “resistance training.”
  • Author 2 uses the term “weight lifting.”
  • Author 3 uses the term “strength training.”

If you were searching for articles on this topic and only searched with the term “strength training,” you could easily miss the other two articles, even though they could be useful.

Using MeSH is a way to avoid this problem. The MeSH term for the concept “strength training” is “resistance training,” which means that all articles written about that topic are assigned that term—even when the authors use other terms, such as “strength training” or “weight lifting,” like our authors 2 & 3 did above. And by searching using the MeSH term, you should be able to find all of the articles by the three authors in just one search.

Points to Remember:

  • Use the drop-down menu to search the MeSH database.
  • Make sure to get as specific as possible when using MeSH terms—check the MeSH tree to see if there is a better term for you to use.
  • The option to “Restrict to MeSH Major Topic” means that the results will all have the MeSH term as a main focus.
  • Subheadings can also help focus the search. Click the subheadings link to get definitions.
  • Try, try again: MeSH searching takes practice!

Also check out these tutorials from the National Library of Medicine for further information:

Use MeSH to Build a Better PubMed Query