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This guides elaborates how to do effective literature searching in Medline (OVID) for AUB students, staff, and faculty can use to search health and medical research..

Medline(OVID) is a bibliographic medical database that indexes around 5,600 international journals in medicine and related health topics and is available from early 1800's to present, they are daily updated. It is produced by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and represents the main content of PubMed.

Medical Subject Heading (Mesh)- The Controlled Vocabulary of Medline

Medline articles are indexed with subject headings called Medical Subject Heading (Mesh), designating the subject content of the article. So, searching Medline using a MeSH term guarantees that articles retrieved are talking about that particular concept.

Mesh Searching


Medline groups the MeSH terms is in a hierarchical arrangement, where a broad MeSH groups its narrower MeSH terms and indents them under it in a tree-structure format.

This allows the user to:

  • Search a broad MeSH term alone (to retrieve those articles that talk about the general aspect of that topic only) without exploding.
  • Explode that broad MeSH term to also include all of its indented narrower MeSH terms, grouped together in an "OR" Boolean operation.
Exploding increases the results of your search

For example, the tree structure of the MeSH term "Mouth Neoplasms":


Exploding the MeSH "Mouth Neoplasms", retrieves articles talking about any of the narrower MeSH terms included in all the above list combined in an "OR" relationship.

Whereas exploding the MeSH "Salivary Gland Neoplasms" retrieves articles talking about it or talking about any of its narrower MeSH terms "Parotid Neoplasms", or "Sublingual Gland Neoplasms", or "Submandibular Gland Neoplasms".

To see "tree structure" for the MeSH term "prostatic neoplasms", click on its hyperlink.


Medline articles have an average of ten Meshes under which each article is indexed. Some of these the article would be discussing in great details (Major Mesh), others the article would be discussing as secondary topic (Minor Mesh).

If a user chooses:

  • to Focus, s/e will be retrieving articles heavily discussing about the particular Mesh and thus choosing only the Major Mesh.
  • not to Focus, s/he will be retrieving articles that have both Minor and Major Meshes.
If you get too many Medline hits, focus Mesh to decrease retrieval to only those that the article discusses as main topics.


Subheadings or qualifiers are used with MeSHes in order to describe the specific aspects shown below to retrieve focused results.  

                  Subheadings for Diseases/Disorders                                                              Subheadings for Drugs

You may select one or more or all of the available subheadings.


it explains the scope, meaning of a Mesh and gives relevant related Meshes and keywords. It also elaborates on the meaning of a subheading.

Keyword Searching


Medline allows both external and internal truncation to use in keyword searching.
External truncation allows searching for all occurrences of words that start with a specific root. This is done by using either * for continuation of the root of the word, or $ to designate zero or one characters.
  • Arab* retrieves: Arab OR Arabs OR Arabic OR Arabian 
  • Arab? represents: Arab OR Arabs
  • Behavio?r gives: us Behavior OR Behaviour


Like phrase searching with the opportunity to have words between two words, represented by adj.

For example, patient adj3 satisfaction gives me all the phrases listed below ORed:

patient satisfaction
patient and family satisfaction
patient and beloved satisfaction
satisfaction of patient
satisfaction of family and patient
satisfaction of friends and patient
and more if present
A maximum of 2 words between the words patient and satisfaction interchangeably.


If your topic is about "Lebanon" and to make the users not to receive noise (irrelevant results) like articles with the author's family name being Lebanon or the address of the author being Lebanon, then the proper keyword searching for Lebanon is lebanon.ti,ab.; this will allow the user to look up Lebanon in title OR abstract of articles and not the rest of the bibliographic indexed part in Medline.


After Performing either Mesh Searching OR Keyword Searching OR both, the user can select limits such as, year, age, language, publication type, gender, Clinical Queries (EBM Filters), etc.