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WHSL Radiology & Oncology: PubMed Simple Subject Search Using MeSH

This Guide was prepared for students and staff interested in radiation oncology

Understanding MeSH

This Guide will help you to understand and use MeSH when searching PubMed. Using MeSH will help you to find only relevant records for your search. If you wish to search for AIDS, MeSH automatically suggests a list of terms related to that subject. You can then select the term you require, and the definition provided under the MeSH term will help you to do this. AIDS can mean Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, but it could also mean Audiovisual Aids or Hearing Aids. The inclusion of MeSH terms will enhance your search results.

Example Using PubMed - Major Topic

Screens demonstrating the concept explained in the box on the right.

Basic Searching (Single MeSH Term) on PubMed

Applying Filters (Formerly Limits) to your PubMed Search

Important: Searchers familiar with applying Limits to their PubMed searches should view either of the videos below which demonstrate the use of the new Filters Sidebar on PubMed. The Filters Sidebar has replaced the old Limits option that use to be at the top of the PubMed search screen. The second tutorial from NLM explains the use of filters in some detail.

Searching PubMed in MeSH using a Major Topic

If you searched PubMed on the 17th of April 2018 for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, you would have retrieved 89285 records. If however, you restrict your search by searching PubMed - Major Topic, your search will be limited to only those articles where Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is the major focus (topic) of your search. Thus, if you search for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome using PubMed - Major Topic on the 17th April 2018,  You would have limited your search results to only 59909 records.

Note that the number of PubMed records grows each day as new information is added to the database.

Applying Subheadings Using MeSH

Subheadings can be attached to MeSH headings to describe a specific aspect of a concept.

Restricting your Search to a Major Topic

When you click on the term you have selected in MeSH, a screen will open showing the subheadings. Use of these subheadings is optional, depending on your search strategy (the plan you have devised for searching). On the right of the screen, you will also see a link to search PubMed and another link to search PubMed - Major Topic