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What is MeSH?

MeSH stands for Medical Subject Heading.
You can do MeSH searches in PubMed and Medline (Ovid). For one of the clearest explanations look at What is MeSH and Searching the MeSH database from the Levy Library at the Mt Sinai Medical School. There is also information from the National Library of Medicine about MeSH.

Common questions about MeSH - Click the + to find out

What about really recent articles that don't have MeSH - Click the + to find out.


Stop and think

It is very tempting to just put a tick in the box next to a suitable MeSH and then click the Continue button when doing initial searching in Medline (Ovid) BUT be very careful as some MeSH may not cover what you expect.

Though pedantic it is important to click on a MeSH (in the following example Depressive disorder) to see its place in the tree. Medline (Ovid) even instructs you to 'click on a subject heading to view more general and more specific terms within the tree'. In the tree structure you can see there are specific types of depressive disorders and you need to decide if you want to include all of these as part of your search, a couple of them or only one.

Click on the i in the Scope column for a heading to see a definition and coverage. The Scope note for Depressive disorder for example indicates there is also a MeSH Depression and there is a difference between depressive disorder and depression. You would need to read the scope note for depression to decide which is the MeSH you want to use.


Watch the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library at Yale video about the Yale MeSH analyzer for the MeSH analyzer tool.

The National Library of Medicine (US) has a MeSH on demand tool to help scope and build your search strategy.

What about Emtree?

Emtree is the term used for subject headings in the database Embase.

What are the differences and similarities between EMTREE and MeSH?


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