MEDLINE-Related Resources

MEDLINE from the National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Other Interfaces to MEDLINE

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

MEDLINE Tutorials

In-Process Citations in PubMed

Journals on the Web

NLM Resources

Health Information on the Web

This page is based on an appendix from Katcher BS. MEDLINE: a guide to effective searching in PubMed and other interfaces. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Ashbury Press; 2006.



Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

Deliberate and careful use of Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)--the National Library of Medicine's controlled vocabulary for health-related concepts--is a major contributor to complete and precise MEDLINE searches.

An excellent publicly available resource for using MeSH is the Entrez MeSH Database. A link to this MeSH Database can be found on the PubMed search screen. The MeSH Database home page includes links to a variety of tutorials, including a multi-part tutorial about MeSH.

Use the MeSH Database to determine what concepts from this controlled vocabulary best describe your search topic. PubMed search strategies can be constructed from within this database.

When you find an interesting article in PubMed, use the Citation display to see the MeSH terms that were used to index it. Each of these MeSH terms (some of them with subheadings, some of them as Major MeSH) will appear as a hyperlink. You can use these links to learn more about these MeSH. You can also use them as the basis for a new search (selected MeSH terms will be searched exactly as they were applied to the citation, with subheadings, etc). You may see additional Entrez database search links options for some terms. If there are substances in the Citation display, they may include links to PubChem databases.

Other MeSH resources from the National Library of Medicine include what might be called a “Medical Subject Headings Home Page,” with links to a number of other MeSH-related resources, including a Fact Sheet with detailed information about MeSH and a MeSH Browser. For most users, the MeSH Database will be more useful, but the MeSH browser allows you to see entries three ways: in standard view, in a special concept view, and in a more detailed expanded concept view (try it out, or see the explanation in the NLM Technical Bulletin).

The pharmacologic action category of MeSH requires a little study. See pages 61-63 from my book (linked here as a PDF).

The National Library of Medicine's Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) links other controlled vocabularies to MeSH. Among these are RxNorm (standard names for clinical drugs, which can be searched with a downloadable browser called RxNav), SNOMED CT (the College of American Pathologists' Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine--Clinical Terms), and more than 100 other source vocabularies. PubMed and the Entrez MeSH Database use the Unified Medical Language System to link entry terms to MeSH.

Updated December 26, 2015

The PDF pages describing pharmacologic actions, linked from this Web page, are copyright Brian Katcher; do not reproduce without permission.

Please send comments to brian[at-sign]