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Public Health 102 (Young): Search Terms & Strategies

Health Promotion

Controlled Vocabulary

  • Most EBSCO databases have a tool to help you discover subject terms. See Academic Search Complete > Subject Terms and Academic Search Complete > Subject Terms: Thesaurus
  • Most ProQuest databases have a tool to help you discover subject terms: See PsycInfo > Thesaurus
  • When you find a useful article, look at the article's Subject Headings (or Subject or Subject Terms), and record them as possible terms to use in a subject term search.

Here is an example of the subject terms listed for a systematic review found in PsycINFO, "Primary care screening for and treatment of depression in pregnant and postpartum women: Evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force" (2016).

MeSH: Medical Subject Headings

The controlled vocabulary system for PubMed is MeSH: Medical Subject Headings. Using MeSH in combination with keywords is the most effective way to search PubMed. 

For example, here are some MeSH terms for:

Adults: Adult (A person having attained full growth or maturity. Adults are of 19 through 44 years of age. For a person between 19 and 24 years of age, YOUNG ADULT is available.)

Screening: Mass Screening (Organized periodic procedures performed on large groups of people for the purpose of detecting disease.)

Major depression: Depressive Disorder, Major (Marked depression appearing in the involution period and characterized by hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and agitation.)

Search using MeSH from the National Library of Medicine in the PubMed database:

  • In PubMed, select MeSH from the search drop down menu (rather than PubMed) directly to the left of the search bar.
  • Conduct a search using one of your keywords
  • If more than one term is listed, select the desired term with a check mark
  • Or, select subheadings that match your topic interest
  • Click Add to search builder
  • Search for additional terms if desired, e.g. outbreak, causes, therapy, etc.
  • Click Add to search builder
  • Click Search PubMed