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Medical Subject Headings

Sources Used in Creating and Maintaining the MeSH Vocabulary

Staff in the Medical Subject Headings Section continually revise and update the MeSH vocabulary. Staff subject specialists are responsible for areas of the health sciences in which they have knowledge and expertise. In addition to receiving suggestions from indexers and others, staff collect new terms as they appear in the scientific literature or in emerging areas of research; define these terms within the context of existing vocabulary; and recommend their addition to MeSH. Professionals in various disciplines are also consulted regarding broad organizational changes and close coordination is maintained with various specialized vocabularies.

For example, recent editions of Bergey’s Manual of Systematic bacteriology, Virus Taxonomy: Classification and Nomenclature of Viruses, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses are consulted for the latest definitive organization in these two areas. Current editions of classic textbook such as Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine or Robbins Pathological Basis of Disease represent a type of reference source frequently consulted.

As more information is published online, the range of formats used in verifying and checking MeSH definitions for currency and completeness is expanding. Online manuals of drugs and other chemicals as well as full text journals are now also relied upon in creating and maintaining the ever-expanding Medical Subject Headings vocabulary.