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How to Search in PubMed Using MeSH (Medical Subject Headings): Home

How to Search in PubMed Using MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)

There are SO many ways to search in PubMed. Below is a method that I call "lego style searching" where you first search for all the necessary pieces and components (in the form of MeSH terms) and then combine those terms together to create the most relevant search results. The best part is if you don't get the right results, you can try combining your MeSH terms differently.


1. From the library's homepage (, select Databases below the main search box. Search for the PubMed database and select the correct result. Then, click on the database link. PubMed is a freely accessible database, but connecting from the library means that you will have all the access to full text to journals that UNH subscribes to.

2. In the PubMed home page, scroll down to find the MeSH Database.

3. In the dropdown box that says PubMed, select MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) to access the MeSH thesaurus.

4. In the search box, type in the term that you want to search for. Now search!
In the below example, searching for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder in MeSH retrieves the term: Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive. Note that below the MeSH term, there is a brief definition as well as a year the term was introduced.

5. Optionally, you may select any relevant subheadings beneath your MeSH term using the checkboxes. If you are not sure which ones are relevant, you may choose to leave the checkboxes blank, and PubMed will search all of them. Then, click Add to search builder on the right hand side of the page, and Search PubMed.

6. Next, clear the search box on the results page, and select MeSH from the dropdown box again. Now, search for your next term.

7. Searching for inhaler in the MeSH thesaurus retrieves three results. Select the most relevant result from the list.

8. From the next page, select all relevant subheadings (optional), then select Add to search builder on the right hand side of the page, and Search PubMed.

9. Keep repeating steps 5-7 as needed!

10. Once you have searched for all of your most important terms in MeSH, select the Advanced link underneath the main search box in PubMed. The next page will show you everything you have searched in your session. In your search history, click Add next to all the terms you want to combine. Note that PubMed will place those terms in the search boxes above. You can use the Boolean AND to ensure that your results retrieve ALL of the terms in the search boxes.

10. Now, the results will show all of your combined MeSH terms! You can feel free to utilize the filters on the left hand side of the page to further narrow your search by article type, publication date, language, etc..

Tutorials created by: Eugenia Opuda
Gifs created in Camtasia or taken online from Giphy