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MeSH Browser Overview

Searching Vocabulary with the MeSH Browser

  • The browser offers two search methods: FullWord Search and SubString Search.
    • FullWord Search looks for complete entry terms only, not strings that are part of a term, word, or sentence.
    • SubString Search will find records that have a string of characters as a complete term, or embedded in a term, word or sentence.
  • Each method can be further modified to search by Exact Match, All Fragments, or Any Fragment.
    • Exact Match finds terms that precisely match your search term regardless of whether the term has upper and lower case characters.
    • All Fragments finds terms that include all fragments of a search string in any particular order.
    • Any Fragment finds terms that include at least one fragment of a search string.
  • The look-up can also be restricted or limited with any of the following:
    • Main Heading Terms including Preferred Terms, Entry Terms, Entry Versions, and Permuted Terms found in Descriptor Records
    • Qualifiers Terms including Preferred Terms, Entry Terms, and Abbreviations found in Qualifier Records
    • Supplementary Concept Record Terms including Preferred Terms, Entry Terms, and N1 Terms found in Supplementary Concept Records
    • All Terms includes all of the above.
  • The search for records can also be targeted to any of these metadata fields
    • Pharmacological Action (PA) finds all chemicals in MeSH that have a PA that matches the term you searched
    • CAS Registry/EC Number/UNII Code searches the RN and RR finds of all chemicals in MeSH. It will retrieve records with either a matching CAS Registry Number assigned by Chemical Abstracts Service, a matching Enzyme Commission (EC) number, a FDA Substance Registry System Unique Identifier (UNII), or NCBI Taxonomy txid number.
    • MeSH Unique ID finds Descriptor, Qualifier, and Supplemental Concept Records by their Record Unique Identifier
    • Annotation or Scope Note finds records with string matches in the text of these free-text fields
    • Heading Mapped To (HM) retrieves Supplemental Concept Records that are mapped to particular Descriptor Heading.
    • Indexing Information (II) retrieves Supplemental Concept Records that include a matching Descriptor Heading in their II field.

Viewing Records

 When a descriptor is selected, the details of the record are displayed under four tabs, Details, Qualifiers, MeSH Tree Structures, and Concepts. When a qualifier or Supplementary Concept record is selected, the details of the record are displayed under two tabs, Details and Concepts. Fields or elements within the record are linked to additional sources such as related records, MeSH terms in Scope Notes, hierarchy locations, and other similar information.

The MeSH record view in the Details, Qualifiers, and MeSH Tree Structure tabs should satisfy all your basic needs if you are using MeSH to search and retrieve citations. Additional information about the concepts of the record (such as Concept UI, Semantic Type, and Lexical Tag as it exists in XML MeSH ) can be viewed in the Concept tab. These can be viewed under the Concept tab by expanding or collapsing specific parts by clicking on the Term names or by using the Expand All/Collapse All button. To learn more about these elements see: Concept Structure in XML MeSH .

Navigating the MeSH hierarchy

Clicking on "Tree View" will allow you to browse the MeSH hierarchy from the broadest to the narrowest MeSH headings. You can also jump to the MeSH tree by clicking the Tree Number from inside a record in the Detail tab, or by clicking on the record’s MeSH Tree Structure tab.

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Last Reviewed: March 14, 2023