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PubMed: MeSH

What is MeSH?

MeSH, or Medical Subject Headings, is a controlled vocabulary for PubMed. You can think of MeSH terms as tags on an article. When an article is indexed for MEDLINE, an indexer at the National Library of Medicine applies these tags to indicate the primary subjects of the article. Each indexed article has a set of MeSH terms that describe the content of the citation.

A MeSH search retrieves subjects, not words. When you search with a MeSH term, you restrict your search to MEDLINE citations indexed with that subject heading. PubMed's basic search is often very successful in searching appropriate MeSH terms via Automatic Term Mapping, which usually identifies the appropriate MeSH terms associated with your search concepts. However, restricting your search to selected MeSH can provide much needed focus and precision.

The link to the MeSH database can be found on the PubMed homepage under Explore.

Screenshot pointing out MeSH database link on the PubMed homepage

Displaying a Citation's MeSH in PubMed

If a citation has been indexed for MEDLINE, you'll be able to view its tagged MeSH terms near the bottom of the citation's page.

Screenshot showing MeSH terms on a citation's page in PubMed


If you are displaying search results in abstract view, you will be able to view the associated MeSH terms in the "Supplementary Info" section underneath each abstract.

Screenshot showing where to click to view MeSH terms of a citation from the search results page in abstract view