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INF 330: Advanced Research Skills

This guide expands on the topics you've explored in INF 330: Advanced Research Skills

Using Controlled Vocabularies

A controlled vocabulary is a list of words and phrases, called subject headings, built into most databases that indexers (aka the database's librarians) use to organize all the articles and other content in a database. When you search using subject headings, it's a different building process than when you search using keywords, so it might feel unfamiliar the first few times you try it.

Controlled vocabularies are a way to search a database that should pull back every article (or item) that's been "tagged" with that subject heading. 

Controlled Vocabulary by Database

Some databases have names for their controlled vocabularies, here are some of them:

Database Controlled Vocabulary
PubMed/Medline MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)
CINAHL CINAHL Subject Headings
ERIC Thesaurus

Subject Headings

Embase Emtree

Example: Locating Subject Headings on an Article

One way to start getting familiar with the a controlled vocabulary is by seeing what subject headings get attached to the articles you're finding. Here's what you're seeing in this example:

Note: on the abstract page (aka detailed record) you can click on any of the MeSH terms to search using that term.

article abstract in PubMed with associated MeSH

Tutorial: Using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to Search PubMed

This tutorial will give you chance to practice using PubMed by conducting a basic medical literature search. Click the link below to get started!

Tutorial: Practice Subject Searching in PubMed

This tutorial, created by PubMed, will give you even more experience using MeSH terms within that database. Click on the image below to get started!

tutorial on PubMed Subject Search: How it Works

Tutorial: Using PubMed in Evidence-Based Practice

This tutorial will show you how to use evidence-based practice when searching clinical questions using PubMed.  Click on the image below to get started!

Tutorial on using PubMed in Evidence-based Practice

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