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WHSL Basic Searching in PubMed: PubMed Simple Subject Search Using MeSH

A brief guide to using one MeSH term to search PubMed

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 15th August 2020 for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, you would have retrieved 91590  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 15th August 2020,  You would have limited your search results to only 60757 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


PubMed Tutorials from National Library of Medicine

Use MeSH to Build a Better PubMed Query
A brief, basic YouTube introduction on how to build a search using PubMed Medical Subject Headings
Searching with Subheadings in PubMed
Animated tutorial, 5 min

PubMed Using the Advanced Search Builder

3 minute video, learn to use PubMed's Advanced Search features to refine your search with the example of a publication date range; and find journal and author names using the autocomplete feature.

 Using PubMed in Evidence Based Practice

a training course