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Cataloging and Metadata Management: Using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) in Cataloging

Module 4— Descriptors: Selecting the Main Concept(s)

Specialty Headings

  • If the MeSH annotation begins with “SPEC:”, “specialty only”, or “use for the discipline only (education, history, etc)”, this indicates that the descriptor is a specialty heading and refers to the field or profession. Many specialty headings have organ, disease, procedure, or phenomena counterparts
    • For example, the record for Chemistry contains the annotation: the discipline (education, history, etc) only; use CHEMICAL PHENOMENA or specifics treed under it for characteristics of chemicals and their reactions

  • Use specialty headings when your work is discussing the field or profession, covering topics such as trends, history, education, and economics

  • Use the appropriate disease descriptor when that is the primary topic, even if the author is using the specialty term
    • For example, a work titled "The Status of Diagnosis in Endocrinology" should be assigned the descriptor qualifier combination
      • Endocrine System Diseases -- diagnosis
        NOT the descriptor Endocrinology

  • MeSH will generally refer you from the specialty to the related disease in an annotation, scope note or see also reference

  • Examine your work carefully to determine if the specialty heading is actually appropriate. More commonly a disease or procedure will be the correct heading

Example of a Specialty Heading

  • Note the See Also and Annotation that refer to the related diseases

Screen capture of MeSH Browser showing Annotation that refer to the related diseases.

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Last Reviewed: July 27, 2017