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PubMed: Ten Tips

Adapted from the UNC Chapel Hill Pubmed Ten Tips guide.

MeSH: Using Medical Subject Headings

MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings, the list of standard terms added by indexers to PubMed article records to help improve search results. National Library of Medicine indexers examine articles and assign the most specific MeSH headings that describe the concepts discussed. MeSH terms help assure that search results will include the articles about a topic, even when different words are used to describe the topic in the title and abstract. 

PubMed works "behind the scenes" to match your search words to the related MeSH term. The actual search used is displayed in the Search Details box on the right hand side of the screen. Here is the Search Details box for a search entered as "asthma and exercise" with filters added:


When you find an article of interest, look at the MeSH terms assigned to help you find additional words to use to focus your search. Click on the title of the article and then click on the Publication Types, MeSH terms, Secondary source ID, Grant support + link under the abstract. Terms with an asterisk (*) have been labeled a major subject headings. Articles labeled PubMed - In process will not yet have a list of terms.

Clicking on the term will provide three action options:

  • Search in PubMed
  • Search in MeSH
  • Add to Search




The MeSH Database provides you with a way to search for a MeSH term and find how it is used. Access the database by clicking on the term or using the dropdown option in the main search box. The term page will provide:

  • Term definition
  • Subheading options
  • Entry terms
  • MeSH tree



Learn more about using the MeSH Database: