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

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


  • Once you have found appropriate descriptors, read the MeSH annotations carefully to be sure you are using the descriptor correctly (cf. Module 2—Introduction to MeSH). Note: IM and NIM pertain to indexing only. IM and NIM comes from the time when terms describing major points of the article were printed in Index Medicus. IM meant printed in Index Medicus and NIM meant not printed in Index Medicus. Currently, IM terms are the main point of the article, while NIM terms are secondary terms supporting the major points of the article.

  • Annotations provide information about:
    • Coordination:
      Unilateral Breast Cancer: human only; coordinate IM with histological type of neoplasm (IM)

    • Use of subheadings:
      Rhinosporidium: infection = RHINOSPORIDIOSIS; use /parasitol not /microbiol on other terms to indicate the presence of Rhinosporidium

    • Context of the term:
      Cell Survival: NIM; not for micro-organisms

    • Similar/related terms to consider:
      Glycemic Load: GLYCEMIC INDEX is also available

    • Similar terms that may cause confusion:
      Accommodation, Ocular: do not confuse with ADAPTATION, OCULAR, adjustment of eye to light

    • Usage instructions:

    • Diet, Food, and Nutrition: used for searching; INDEXER: Do not use; CATALOGER: Do not use
      (Catalogers may not use these headings)

      Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015: CATALOGER: Use NAF entry
      (Catalogers may not use these headings. Use National Authority File heading)

      Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance Plans: CATALOGER: Coordinate with specific NAF entry if applicable
      (Catalogers may use these headings. Coordinate with National Authority File heading)

      Pathologic Processes: INDEXER: Do not use
      (Catalogers may use these headings)

      Annual Reports: CATALOGER: Use for historical material only
      (NLM catalogers use for works housed in the History of Medicine Division (HMD) only)

      Unpublished Works: CATALOGER: Used by collaborating partners only
      (Used only by NLM collaborating partners (i.e. outside institutions who have created cataloging records for NLM))

      Gram-Positive Bacteria: GEN: avoid: prefer specifics
      Epidemiologic Measurements: Avoid: too general; prefer specifics
      (Catalogers are not prohibited from using these descriptors, but should consider if something more specific is available)


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Last Reviewed: July 19, 2017