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Finding Information for Speech Pathology: Using MeSH Terms in MEDLINE

A Library Guide to help with developing research projects in speech pathology (SPH516, SPH526, & SPH423)

Using MeSH Headings in MEDLINE

MEDLINE is available to Charles Sturt users in a number of platforms. The tips here refer to the Ovid version of MEDLINE.

To search MEDLINE using MeSH terms, you need to use the Advanced Search screen, enter your topic/concept/idea in the search box, tick the box for Map Term to Subject Heading, and click on Search.


Let's use stroke as an example. If you map the term stroke to subject headings, you get this screen:

MEDLINE screen showing that the term stroke maps to the MeSH term Stroke

Clearly, stroke matches to the MeSH term Stroke.

If you click on the Continue button, you can select from the list of subheadings. You can select all the subheadings, or make a selection and combine them with AND or OR. You can see how many articles there are with each heading > subheading. Click on Continue to search for articles.

MEDLINE screen showing that the subheadings presented for the MeSH term Stroke.


Back at the list of mapped subject headings, if you click on the subject heading itself, you are taken into the tree view of the subject headings - that is, the subject heading hierarchy. This can be a help because you can see broader and narrower terms, and you might choose to use these as alternative search terms. At this screen, you can proceed to search for one or a combination of subject headings.

You can also:

  • tick the Explode box (this is the first column of tick-boxes) to select, and search for, not only that subject heading but also any narrower terms that appear beneath it in the hierarchy. This is a way of broadening your search.The plus sign against a subject heading indicates that there are narrower terms. In the screen-shot below, the subject heading for Stroke has been exploded to show all the narrower terms.
  • tick the Focus box (this is the second column of tick-boxes) to search only for articles where that subject heading appears as a Major Subject Heading. This is a way of narrowing your search to return articles where that topic is the main focus.

MEDLINE screen showing the place of the MeSH term Stroke in the subject tree, with the options to select Explode or Focus

For more assistance with this functionality, see the More Help box at right.

Ovid MEDLINE - Advanced Search

This video from the J.W.Scott Health Sciences Library uses a slightly out-of-date Ovid interface, but nevertheless covers this aspect of searching MEDLINE quite well. It also show you how to use Search History to combine separate subject searches.

For even more assistance with this functionality, go to YouTube and do a search for ... ovid medline mesh ... There are a surprising number of YouTube videos available!

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