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Suggestions for Finding Author Keywords using MeSH Tools

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 Tools for finding Keywords

MeSH provides two tools to help authors select MeSH descriptors as key words for articles.

MeSH on Demand

MeSH on Demand is 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 Unit, NLM Index Section, and the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications.

The MeSH Browser

This tool allows users to search directly for MeSH terms, and conduct text-word searches of the Annotation, and Scope Note fields of records. The Registry Number (RN) and Related Registry Number (RR) can be also be searched to find Chemical headings. To search 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.

Direct Browsing of MeSH Hierarchy (Trees) Headings may also be found by browsing through the MeSH Trees. To do this click the "Navigate from tree top" button at the top of the MeSH browser page. 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.  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.

For more information about the current MeSH browser and how to use it see the the Browser's MeSH Browser Info page.

Last Reviewed: October 24, 2022