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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) in MEDLINE®/PubMed®: A Tutorial


The MEDLINE Indexing Process: Determining Subject Content

NLM's MEDLINE indexers use the following steps to determine the subject content of an article:

  1. Read carefully and understand the title. Not all concepts in the title are the main point of an article, such as routine research methods.
  2. Scan the abstract, if present, for an overview of the article's content.
  3. Scan the Introduction to locate the author's statement of purpose.
  4. Read and understand the statement of purpose. The statement of purpose provides information on the subject of the article and complements or is more specific than the information obtained from the title.
  5. Do not index background material.
  6. Check the Materials and Methods section.
  7. The Materials and Methods section describes techniques; however, index only those that are found in the title, statement of purpose, or are substantively discussed in the Results section. Do not index routine methods described only in the Materials and Methods. This section may also contain Publication Type information as well as important indexing concepts such as ages, sexes, and organisms.
  8. Focus on the Results section. Select for indexing only those subjects actually discussed as opposed to those subjects merely mentioned. To identify indexable content, indexers may need to check section headings, paragraph headings, and items such as charts, plates, tables, and illustrations.
  9. Scan the summary or conclusions to confirm the main points of the article. Do not index implications or suggested future applications.
  10. Note the keywords supplied by the author or publisher for additional terms to consider for indexing.
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