Medical Subject Headings
Suggestions for Authors
The following are general suggestions for authors of journal articles who are interested in selecting MeSH descriptors (terms) as key words for their articles. Instructions to Authors vary for different journals; the specific journal should be consulted before selecting keywords. The NLM is not able to provide individual assistance in selecting keywords for journal articles; individual, personalized assistance should be sought from your local medical library.
MeSH provides two tools to help authors select MeSH descriptors as key words for articles. One is MeSH on Demand, a tool that can automatically identify relevant MeSH terms from text such as an abstract or grant summary. It uses natural language processing (NLP) and the NLM Medical Text Indexer (MTI) to find MeSH terms. While the results will be different from human-generated indexing, MeSH on Demand does find relevant MeSH terms that can help jump-start finding MeSH terms in your search area. Note that these MeSH terms are machine generated by MTI and do not reflect any human review. This tool has been developed in close collaboration among MeSH Section, NLM Index Section, and the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications.
The other tool is the MeSH Browser, which allows for searches of MeSH terms, text-word searches of the Annotation and Scope Note, and searches of various fields for chemicals. These searches assume that users are familiar with MeSH terms and using the MeSH Browser.
To use the MeSH Browser, locate a vocabulary term using any word in an expression or using the complete expression. Select the most specific heading. For example, "feedback" can be used to find "Feedback, Biochemical" or "Feedback (Psychology)" as well as other expressions containing the word "feedback."
Start with specific words or short expressions. Consider using two or three terms to best describe the essential subject(s) of your article. It is best to avoid entering a sentence or article title as the results may not be of use.
Headings may also be found by following a hierarchical path using "Navigate from tree top". The "Trees" or hierarchical structure of MeSH provided by MeSH Tree Numbers makes it possible to view terms in the context of broader and narrower concepts. To see a term's location in the hierarchy, click on the heading's "Tree Number" entry in the record display. The plus ("+") symbol in the hierarchical display indicates that narrower concepts are available by clicking on the link. (See the example in the Browser's About page.) Note that the preferred expression is indicated by the label "MeSH Heading" and not "Entry Term." The desired terms may then be copied from the MeSH Browser.
Another way of finding appropriate headings is to search PubMed to find articles on similar topics, and review the MeSH headings assigned to those articles.