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. 2012 Jan;92(1):124-32.
doi: 10.2522/ptj.20100178. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

Using MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) to Enhance PubMed Search Strategies for Evidence-Based Practice in Physical Therapy

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Using MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) to Enhance PubMed Search Strategies for Evidence-Based Practice in Physical Therapy

Randy R Richter et al. Phys Ther. .

Abstract

Background: Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an important paradigm in health care. Physical therapists report lack of knowledge and time constraints as barriers to EBP.

Objective: The purpose of this technical report is to illustrate how Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), a controlled vocabulary thesaurus of indexing terms, is used to efficiently search MEDLINE, the largest component of PubMed. Using clinical questions, this report illustrates how search terms common to physical therapist practice do or do not map to appropriate MeSH terms. A PubMed search strategy that takes advantage of text words and MeSH terms is provided.

Results: A search of 139 terms and 13 acronyms was conducted to determine whether they appropriately mapped to a MeSH term. The search results were categorized into 1 of 5 outcomes. Nearly half (66/139) of the search terms mapped to an appropriate MeSH term (outcome 1). When a search term did not appropriately map to a MeSH term, it was entered into the MeSH database to search for an appropriate MeSH term. Twenty-one appropriate MeSH terms were found (outcomes 2 and 4), and there were 52 search terms for which an appropriate MeSH term was not found (outcomes 3 and 5). Nearly half of the acronyms did not map to an appropriate MeSH term, and an appropriate MeSH term was not found in the database.

Limitations: The results are based on a limited number of search terms and acronyms.

Conclusions: Understanding how search terms map to MeSH terms and using the PubMed search strategy can enable physical therapists to take full advantage of available MeSH terms and should result in more-efficient and better-informed searches.

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