Skip to Main Content

PubMed Guide: Basic Searching & MeSH Headings

This guide includes tutorials for searching PubMed and finding the full text of articles.

Keywords vs. MeSH

Automatic Term Mapping

When you do a search in PubMed, PubMed maps your search terms to the MeSH terms that are used to index articles. The search includes the keywords and the MeSH term(s).



Keyword searching is when you enter the search terms, or keywords, that most accurately describes your topic. This search strategy will find and retrieve the terms you entered. 


Controlled Vocabulary

One way to improve your search results is to use a controlled vocabulary. A controlled vocabulary is defined (controlled) list of terms that are assigned to articles in the database. If you can determine what controlled vocabulary terms are used for your topic you can search with the controlled vocabulary terms and find all the articles on your topic. PubMed uses MeSH, the Medical Subject Heading controlled vocabulary.

PubMed maps your keyword search to the appropriate MeSH, or controlled vocabulary terms, for you. 



You can search the MeSH database to find the most appropriate search term, learn more about the MeSH term, see where the term is in the heirarchy, and build complex searches.



How to use MeSH