Subject terms refer to a database's controlled vocabulary. Controlled vocabulary systems, such as the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) or the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, use pre-set terms that are used to tag resources on similar subjects. Think of these as operating like hashtags on Instagram.
The object is to simplify access – all related entries in the database can be located by using the right standardized term. Identifying the right subject terms used in the database can help to focus a search to find the articles that are the best fit for your research.
This tutorial shows how to build a targeted PubMed search starting in the MeSH database. It includes very brief background on MeSH terms and indexing.
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This tutorial demonstrates how (and why) to use the thesaurus tool to find index terms or subject headings when searching PsycINFO on ProQuest.
You can use MeSH from the National Library of Medicine in the PubMed database.
In PscyINFO's Advanced Search, head to the Thesaurus, located on top of the search boxes. You can them look up one of your keywords to see if there is an official term related to the concept.
When you find a relevant article, make sure to look at the subject terms listed. You can then look for articles that has been tagged with those subject terms to find other potentially relevant items.
Using the keywords from our example, here are some MeSH terms for:
In the following example, I looked up the phrase "mental health" and discovered that it is an official index term, but there are some other terms listed underneath the main index term. I can decide to include any of these related terms.