Searching the MeSH Heading Field

To refine your search by subject heading, you can explode the subject heading and/or designate it a major topic.

Exploding a heading means that you want to retrieve records that contain the heading or any heading subordinate to it.


For example, consider this section of MeSH:

Mesh Heading example


If you select Tooth Abnormalities to search the MeSH Terms field, and you explode it, then you will retrieve records that contain any of the following subject headings.

  • Tooth Abnormalities
  • Amelogenesis Imperfecta
  • Dental Enamel Hypoplasia
  • Anodontia
  • Dens in Dente
  • Dentin Dysplasia
  • Dentinogenesis Imperfecta
  • Fused Teeth
  • Odontodysplasia
  • Tooth, Supernumerary

If you select Tooth Abnormalities and you do not explode it, then the records you retrieve must contain the heading Tooth Abnormalities. The records may also contain one or more of the subordinate headings.


MeSH Indexing

As you search MEDLINE keep in mind these guidelines followed by indexers at the National Library of Medicine:

  1. Assign the most specific subject heading available that describes a major concept discussed in the article.

  2. Designate a subject heading as a major topic if it represents the main point or subject of the article.

  3. Assign as many subject headings as appropriate to cover all the topics discussed in the article.

The first of these is particularly important. A MEDLINE record that contains a very specific subject heading may not necessarily contain a heading that describes the same concept but on a more general level.