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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

The MEDLINE database is indexed by subject specialists who read each article completely and then assign terms to describe (as specifically as possible) the content of the article. The terms come from a standardized list of vocabulary and definitions called MeSH or Medical Subject Headings.

The idea behind MeSH is that all articles about the same concept are assigned the same standardized subject heading.

For example, one author may use the words diabetes type 1, another may use insulin dependent diabetes, and a third author might use diabetes mellitus, sudden-onset. However all of the articles will be indexed under Diabetes Mellitus, Insulin-Dependent, the MeSH term for this disease. The most effective way to search MEDLINE is to use the MeSH terms whenever possible.

Textword searching, on the other hand, only looks for the exact word or phrase in the title or abstract. Using the textwords insulin dependent diabetes will only retrieve articles with that exact phrase in the title or abstract. Avoid text word searching. It is highly ineffective and incomplete.

How do I know what the MeSH heading is for my topic?

Call the Library at 215.871.6470 or email library@pcom.edu