How to use MeSH on PubMed?

Here is a brief, yet simplified explanation on how to use MeSH on PubMed If you go to the MeSH database, and start searching, for example, for the term ache, you’ll get the keyword pain as the right term to search for.

Here are the steps you need to do in order to get the best out of the MeSH database (MeSH on PubMed):

  1. Search for the first keyword, in this case it’s “pain“.
  2. Check the keyword “pain“.
  3. Click the add to search builder button, you’ll see that it’s been added to your search box on the right.
  4. You can automatically use boolean operators by searching for another keyword like “back” if you are looking for articles denoting “back pain“.
  5. Choose the boolean operator from the drop down menu, in this case chose AND,.
  6. Check the term “back“.
  7. Click the add to search builder button.
  8. Try using one more boolean operator to make your search a bit more complex. This time try NOT. let’s assume you want to exclude articles referring to “Superficial Back Muscles“, just check this keyword.
  9. Chose NOT from the menu.
  10. Click the add to search builder button.

You’ll end up with something like this in the search builder: ((“Pain”[Mesh]) AND “Back”[Mesh]) NOT “Superficial Back Muscles”[Mesh]. Don’t worry about the brackets and quotation marks as they are automatically generated. Now, if you click Search PubMed, you’ll get results that are more relevant to you and it will be easier for you to navigate them as they will be way less in number than if you just searched for “back pain“.

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