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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

New Pubmed (EN): MeSH

What is MeSH

MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) are standardized keywords that refer to the content of an article.

Most of the articles in PubMed have been manually assigned MeSH Terms by indexers from the NLM (National Library of Medicine).

For the country Thailand, for example, there are many synonyms (e.g. Siam), but there are also many cities and areas in Thailand. It can then be difficult to make sure you name all the words that may be used if you want to find all the relevant articles about Thailand. Because the indexer of the NLM adds the MeSH Term 'Thailand' to articles about Thailand, you can still find it by searching on this MeSH term. 

Where to find the MeSH database?

Where to find the MeSH database

The MeSH database can be found in the start screen under 'Explore'.

Pros en cons of searching with MeSH


  • You will also find articles that may not mention the search terms in the title or abstract but have it nevertheless as subject.


  • For some search terms there are no MeSH terms yet available.
  • The most recent articles have not been indexed yet.

MeSH - Video (3 min.)

Want to know more about the use of MeSH? Read or watch PubMed's tutorial on MeSH.

Searching the MeSH Database

undefinedIn the MeSH database you not only see whether a MeSH term exists, but you also

find all kinds of other information about the MeSH term.

You can use the information of each MeSH Term to broaden or narrow your search.  

  • The MeSH term: The title at the top indicates the official MeSH term. In the image on the right-hand side it is: 'Raw Foods'. Sometimes you see [Supplementary Concept] after a term. This is a concept-MeSH Term. See the example below (montelukast). Searching for supplementary concepts often has added value.
  • Definition of the MeSH term
  • Subheadings: These are  specific aspects of the MeSH term. They differ per MeSH term. You can tick one or more boxes to search for those aspects
  • Entry terms: These are comparable words (synonyms) that are translated in a search strategy to the MeSH term mentioned above.
  • The ordering of related MeSH terms; MeSH terms are "hierarchically ordered" in a  "tree structure". A MeSH term can fall under several categories. In principle, PubMed includes all underlying MeSH terms in your search. If you choose MeSH: no explode, all underlying MeSH terms will not be included.
  • See Also: Here you will find other related topics.

NOTE: For new MeSH terms, check for the option: 'Previously indexed' to find older references on the same topic! The MeSH Database is updated annually. You can find the year the term is introduced under the MeSH term!

Click on the image to enlarge. Based on the work of University Library Nijmegen".

MeSH termen toevoegen aan je Search


   On the right side of a MeSH database item you will find the 'PubMed search builder'.

   You can add the MeSH term to your search.

   Click on 'Add to search builder' and then on 'search PubMed'.

   Alternatively, you can copy text from this and paste it into the

  'Advanced-search-builder-Query box'.