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Investigación en educación médica

On-line version ISSN 2007-5057


FERNANDEZ-ALTUNA, María de los Ángeles et al. MeSH use: a practical guide. Investigación educ. médica [online]. 2016, vol.5, n.20, pp.220-229. ISSN 2007-5057.


Given the wide range of electronic sources of information, it is increasingly difficult to find relevant information. While PubMed is one of the most efficient search resources used by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México School of Medicine academic community through its Digital Medical Library, it is still difficult to narrow down the results. In this paper MeSH use is proposed as an alternative tool for searching.


To identify the main search strategies through the use of MeSH; to apply MeSH searching strategies using an example for efficient and more specific information recovery through the Digital Medical Library.


An overview of MeSH general use was made, and some proposed searching strategies were reviewed and, through a research question, some strategies for effective search and information retrieval were done using available MeSH via Digital Medical Library. The results were analysed, defining which strategies were more effective and useful. Also a general search on PubMed was made using the same PICO based strategy and results were compared with the proposed MeSH based search methods. A practical MeSH search user guide is proposed.


Using the approach of the three searching strategies using MeSH, a reduced amount of material, and hence more useful due to being specific, was obtained. Using the MDL, between 75 and 87% of the material was obtained in full text. MeSH based search strategy was more efficient than PubMed general search.


Knowing and using the three MeSH search strategies, allowed to conduct effective information recovery. It was considered relevant to provide a series of recommendations about the use of MeSH to perform more precise searches in less time, taking advantage of the controlled and standardised vocabulary.

Keywords : MeSH; Medical subject headings; PubMed; Information search; UNAM Medical Digital Library.

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