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Nursing and Allied Health: MESH - Using Medical Subject Headings

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MeSH on Demand: Increasing the accuracy of your search...


PubMed is organized by subject headings.  These subject headings are called MeSH and are attached to every article, book, clinical trial and study.



Medical subject headings are a controlled vocabulary used to index scholarly journals in nursing and allied health and are easy to use.. Knowing and using the MESH terms increase the accuracy and focus of a search.

There are several  ways to check your search terms to see if they are in the MESH index.  One method is called the MeSH on Demand.  You enter the term in the MeSH Browser.  For instance, if you are searching for Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2). See example below. 


MeSH Browser


There is a second method of finding the proper search term in the MeSH browser. Using the same example as above, type in your term.  Click on EXACT MATCH.


This returns a view of the MeSH Descriptive Data with suggested sub-subject headings:



Clicking on the TREE NUMBER provides all of the subheadings for this TREE.   For my research, I am looking for information regarding obesity in children with Type 2 Diabetes.





CINAHL Headings (Controlled Vocabulary)


Cinahl subject headings are similar to MESH subject headings.  CINAHL terms are based based on MESH.  Enter the term Diabetes Mellitus and selecting TYPE 2 by checking the box. Select an appropriate SUBHEADING such as therapy.  This locates all articles on Diabetes Type 2 therapeutic regimens.  Check the boxes in the sub-headings menu and then click SEARCH.



Filter the Results


Select the AGE filter and limit the filter to ALL CHILD,  Next, I combine search #2 with OBESITY.  The CINAHL HEADINGS MENU provides me with the sub-heading:  Diet Therapy/DT.  Check the box adjacent to Diet Therapy and CLICK the MAJOR HEADINGS box.


If you had researched this term using the MESH BROWSER in PUBMED / NLM, you might construct your search differently:




Searching is both an Art and a Science


In the previous example, using MeSH on Demand , you would have found that Pediatric Obesity as a major subheading.


Type in Pediatric Obesity. Using the pulldown menu, select MAJOR HEADING in CINAHL,  This method of searching  results in 42 articles -- prior to filtering by date.





Run the same search again in PubMed.  In the Advanced Search form, type in the term "Pediatric Obesity". Using the pulldown menu, select MeSH Major Topic and  you retrieve more articles:



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