This section of the Annotated Alphabetic List includes instructions for the correct coordination of main headings and subheadings, and assignment of publication types for cataloging. Also included are instructions for medical catalogers on how to construct the traditional subject heading string no longer used on NLM's internal bibliographic records. The traditional subject heading string is reconstructed on records NLM distributes to bibliographic utilities and other licensees.
The Cataloging Section at NLM has used the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) thesaurus for assigning subject headings to books, journals, and audiovisuals since 1960 and now uses it also for electronic resources. With MeSH 1999 nearly all variances between cataloging and indexing in applying the MeSH vocabulary were eliminated. Catalogers follow the same principles for application of MeSH in subject analysis as do indexers for journal article literature.
Catalogers also apply the same coordination principles as indexers do in that they may express the subject content of an item by the combination or coordination of two or more MeSH headings or MeSH heading/subheading combinations. The content of any item may be described by using any type of coordination or by a combination of two or more of the types indicated below:
Catalogers and indexers use the topical subheadings as permitted in MeSH to fully describe the subject content of an item.
Cataloger annotations are provided in instances when more guidance for consistent application of MeSH is needed. Annotations applicable specifically to cataloging are prefaced by the word "CATALOG." Nearly all other MeSH annotations apply equally to cataloging and indexing. Exceptionally, catalogers use disease manifestation concepts such as SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS, EYE MANIFESTATIONS, SKIN MANIFESTATIONS, etc., and a few other very general terms annotated "not used for indexing," which do not have a similar instruction for catalogers.
Specific Headings vs. Broader Headings
In general, catalogers assign the most specific heading or headings available in order to bring out the main focus of the item. If the work covers several specific subjects indented under a broader heading in the MeSH tree structure, it is NLM policy to assign up to three specific headings. If more than three specific headings are needed the cataloger will assign the broader heading. CAUTION: This rule applies only when the individual MeSH headings are treed under a broader heading in the same category. In all other cases specific MeSH headings are assigned as required by the content of the work.
Headings NOT used in Subject Cataloging
There are three types of MeSH headings not used in subject cataloging. The first is a group of broad, general main headings not used in indexing or cataloging (e.g., FOOD AND BEVERAGES); catalogers use the appropriate specific main heading or headings to cover the concepts. These headings are annotated "not used for indexing; CATALOG: do not use" or "not used for indexing or cataloging."
The second type is a small group of check tags listed in Features of the MeSH Vocabulary, under Check Tags. In MeSH they are easily identified by the annotation "check tag only." A notable exception is CASE REPORT, which catalogers use to function as a Publication Type though it is entered as a secondary topical subject heading (See details under Addendum Applying Publication Types below.)
The third group of headings catalogers do not use consists of corporate names and uniform titles for serial publications, databases, names of laws, etc. They are annotated "CATALOG: use NAF entry." Catalogers use, instead, the heading from the Cataloging Name Authority File.
Age Group Headings & PREGNANCY
Catalogers use age group headings and PREGNANCY either as primary or secondary subject headings. They are used as primary subjects when they are the focal point (i.e., the age group is the focus of the psychological, sociological or social content) of an item. When they are used as secondary subjects, they serve to specify age or pregnancy in relation to other main headings or main heading/topical subheading combinations. On distributed records, they are used as topical subheadings attached to other main headings or main heading/topical subheadings in the subject string. For more detailed information see web document Age Groups and PREGNANCY Replace "in .."Topical Subheadings
Catalogers, like indexers, use no more than three topical subheadings with any one main heading, except in very rare circumstances. For any item in which more than three subheadings seem to be needed with a single main heading, the cataloger applies the Topical Subheading Hierarchies in an attempt to reduce the number of subheadings required.
For example, if an item discusses diagnosis, therapy, epidemiology, and mortality of a disease, the disease heading is repeated with each of the first three subheadings. The last subheading is not applied because it falls under epidemiology in the subheading hierarchy.
If an item substantively discusses many aspects of a topic, generally the main heading is used without qualification if the number of topical subheadings cannot be limited to three by applying the subheading hierarchies.
For a topical subheading to be used with a main heading it must be included on the allowable qualifier (AQ) list for that heading. See Topical Subheadings With Scope Notes, Abbreviations, and Allowable Categories. The Medical Subject Headings -Annotated Alphabetic List provides guidance for qualifying a main heading with a topical subheading by descriptor categories or subcategories. However, some exceptions to the general guidelines apply to specific terms. Whenever possible catalogers should consult the MeSH Browser which provides a complete list of allowable qualifiers for each main heading.
The Publication Types section, enumerates publication types (PTs) used in cataloging. One or more publication types may be assigned to an item to characterize the nature of the information presented (i.e., the item is a bibliography, handbook, outline, etc.). Special instructions on how to apply publication types are provided in the Addendum Applying Publication Types below. For more detailed information see web document Applying Publication Types/Genres
Changes in Subject Heading Structure, Content and Practice
With 1999 MeSH and the implementation of the Voyager Integrated Library System, the Cataloging Section moved to harmonize its practices for subject heading content and structure with NLM's indexing practices. These changes are intended to facilitate cross-file searching through the NLM Gateway and enhance retrieval by assuring that the same terms produce like results for articles, books, non- print materials, electronic resources, etc.
Structural and Content Changes
In NLM LocatorPlus, NLM's web-based catalog, main headings or main heading and topical subheading combinations are not qualified by geographic, form, or language subheadings (see web document Main Heading and Subheading Order.) Instead geographic descriptors and publication types (PTs), formerly known as form divisions, are carried in separate fields and are used in retrieval in coordination with main headings or main heading and topical subheading combinations. The NLM LocatorPlus record does not contain language subfields in the subject string since this information is encoded in the MARC21 language field (041).
In LocatorPlus records subject headings appear in the following format:
Based on advice received from a number of medical libraries, NLM recombines subject headings, geographic descriptors and PTs to form the conventional subject heading string in MARC records distributed to bibliographic utilities and other licensees. The order of the main headings and subheadings is:
For detailed instructions on how to construct a subject heading string found in NLM LocatorPlus records see web document CONSTRUCTING THE SUBJECT HEADING STRING.
Applying Publication Types/Genres
The Medical Subject Headings - Annotated Alphabetic List section "Publication Types" specifically enumerates publication types (PTs) used in cataloging. This list is divided into two groups, the List of PTs Used as Form Divisions and List of PTs Used as Genres. This differentiation between like terms is made so that medical catalogers can add a PT found in the first list as a form division to a subject heading string (MARC21 650 subfield v). It is entered in MARC21 field 655 (Genre/Form) in LocatorPlus. PTs found in the second list are treated as genres and are not added to any subject heading string. They are entered in LocatorPlus field 659, a locally defined non- recombinant PT field, and in MARC21 field 655 on distributed records.
CASE REPORT: Medical catalogers may use CASE REPORT as a form division although it is a MeSH check tag. It is coded in NLM's LocatorPlus as a secondary subject heading (MARC21 field 650 22 subfield a). On distributed records it is added as subfield v to all other 650 subject strings
Publication Types (PTs) used in MARC21 field 655 in LocatorPlus and as form division in subfield v of the 650 on distributed records
Publication Types (PTs) used in field 659 in LocatorPlus and as genres in MARC21 655 Genre/Form field on distributed records.
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Last updated: 18 October 2002