Skip to main content

AHS 271 - Research Methods

On this page...

On this page ...

  • Things to consider when planning your search.
  • PRISMA Guidelines 
  • Citation searching.
  • MeSH headings.
    • Video - Searching MEDLINE with MeSH
    • Video - Searching PubMed with MeSsh
  • Is there a difference between PubMed and MEDLINE?

Things to consider for doing a comprehensive search

Issues to consider when doing your searching for a systematic literature review:   

  • All concepts are included in the strategy
  • All appropriate subject headings are used
  • Appropriate use of explosion (MeSH headings)
  • Appropriate use of subheadings
  • Use of natural language (search full text key words) along with controlled vocabulary terms
  • Use of appropriate synonyms and acronyms
  • Use truncation and spelling variation
  • Use of limits such as language, years, and publication type.
  • Search by author.
  • Use Boolean operators
  • Search strategy adapted as needed for multiple databases

Citation Searching

Is there a difference between PubMed and MEDLINE?

What’s the difference between pubmed and medline?

  • PubMed is a database service – a way to access/interface with the raw data
  • The raw data is called MEDLINE data, provided by the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
  • In addition to PubMed, you can access this data through ISI/Web of Science interface.
  • Both access the same data (MEDLINE) but have different capabilities and provide a different user experience.

In other words, PubMed is one way to access MEDLINE.

Which one should I use?

Personal preference.  PubMed is more user-friendly, Web of Science gives you more control over your searches.

Whare are MeSH headings?

MeSH is a controlled vocabulary produced by the National Library of Medicine, Washington, DC. 


Controlled vocabulary consists of a restricted subset of possible terms.  This allows journal articles to be categorized with a standard set of terms.

  • Use MeSH headings in searching the medical literature when there are multiple key words that could describe your topic. 
    • For example, searching for "bad breath" will only retrieve records with the phrase.  Search using the MeSH term "halitotis" retrieves all records categorized with this subject.
  • In MEDLINE you can “explode” a hierarchy and retrieve both articles with the general term and articles with the terms underneath.
  • Web of Knowledge "explodes" headings is the default.  Select search type, MeSH heading (no explode) if you do not want this to happen.

For more information visit the National Library of Medicine web site:

Searching MEDLINE with MeSH Headings

Search PubMed with MeSH Headings