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AHS 361 - Integrative Physiology

Difference between MEDLINE and PubMED

When you want to search, you can use either PubMED or MEDLINE - they both allow you to search MeSH headings so what is the difference?

  • PubMed is a database service – an access/interface to raw data
  • The raw data is called MEDLINE data, provider: National Library of Medicine (NLM).
  • MEDLINE can also be accessed through the ISI/Web of Science interface.

PubMed is one way to access MEDLINE but not the only way.  MEDLINE at Wheaton is also available through Web of Science.

Which one should I use?  It is personal preference if accessing MEDLINE data - PubMed is more user-friendly, but Web of Science gives you more control over your searches.  However, PubMed also contains journals/manuscripts deposited in PMC, and the NCBI Bookshelf. 

What are MeSH subject headings?

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

  • A vocabulary is said to be "controlled" when it consists of a restricted subset of possible terms. This allows articles to be categorized with a standard set of terms. 
  • Use subject headings when searching if there could be multiple key words that describe your topic. For example:
    • Searching for "bad breath" only retrieves records with that phrase.  Using MeSH term "halitotis" retrieves all records categorized with this subject.
  • MeSH terms are arranged hierarchically, more specific terms are arranged under broader categories. 
  • MEDLINE allows you to “explode” this hierarchy to retrieve all articles indexed with the general term along with all articles indexed by the specific terms listed underneath.
  • "Exploding headings" is the default in Web of Science unless you select the "MeSH no explode" search type.

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

Searching using MeSH Headings in MEDLINE in Web of Science

Searching using MeSH Headings in PubMED