Hours Today: 06/24/17
9am - 7pm | see all hours

Ask a Librarian

Glossary of Terms for Searching Medline and Other Databases

Abstract: a short summary highlighting the important concepts of a journal article.

AIM Journals: a journal subset called the Abridged Index Medicus journals, consisting of a core list of 120 of the major clinical medical journals.

Boolean Operators: terms used to combine concepts in a logical order. The most commonly used Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT.

Citation: a bibliographic record of a journal article. It includes many fields, such as the author, article title, journal title, volume, page numbers, and year, and is the basic information you need to locate the journal article. Also called a "reference".

Database: a collection of records. Medline is a 'bibliographic' database, which means that it gives you all the information in bibliographic records (citations) that you need to find a journal article. On the other hand, full-text databases contain the entire text of the article.

Explode: simultaneous searching of a general ("broader") subject heading and the more specific ("narrower") subject headings which fall under it. For example, if you "explode" the term 'infant', you will also retrieve the more specific terms, 'infant, newborn', 'infant, premature' and more. Without explode, you would retrieve only the broader term itself and not any of the more specific terms that might have been assigned by the indexer. Explode utilizes the automatic OR' ing together of a MeSH term and the narrower terms associated with it.

Field: a data element of a citation (record) in a database. Common fields in Medline citations include author (AU), title of article (TI), source (journal name, year, volume, pages) (SO), abstract (AB), etc. File: another name for a database. Large databases like Medline are divided by year groupings and these groups are called files.

Focus: feature of Medline that allows you to restrict retrieval to only those citations which contain the chosen concept as the main point of the article. See also "Major MeSH".

Indexed: a Medline citation that has been assigned controlled vocabulary terms (MeSh headings).

Limit: restrictions applied to search sets that reduce the total number of citations retrieved. Commonly used limits include language, human/animal, age groups, publication type, and journal subset.

Major MeSH: a Medical Subject Heading that is designated as one of the main concepts covered in a journal article. Major MeSH headings are indicated by an asterisk in Medline. See also "Focus".

Mapping: a computer process whereby the search system matches (maps) a given term to the most appropriate MeSH heading.

MEDLINE: National Library of Medicine's (NLM) bibliographic database covering the fields of medicine, dentistry, nursing, veterinary medicine, healthcare administration, and the pre-clinical sciences dating back to 1966.

MeSH: Medical Subject Headings. The thesaurus or controlled vocabulary for Medline.

Record: a bibliographic citation of a journal article. Synonym of citation.

Scope Note: descriptive message for MeSH headings. Scope notes provide definitions as well as synonyms, year of adoption by Medline, previous indexing, and cross references.

Set: a group of records matching your search criteria. Sets are combined with Boolean Operators (AND, OR, and NOT).

Subheading: a term used to qualify or modify MeSH headings as a way of targeting a specific aspect of the subject.

Subject Heading: a thesaurus term or a controlled vocabulary term.

Textword: exact words found in the title and/or abstract of the article. Also called keyword.

Thesaurus: a systematically compiled list of terms. MeSH is the thesaurus for Medline. Synonym of controlled vocabulary.

Tree: a hierarchy of terms in a controlled vocabulary, arranged in order of broader to narrower concepts.

Truncation: the shortening of a term to its word stem with the addition of a symbol to represent all possible endings to that term. The truncation symbol in OVID is $. For example: bacteri$ would retrieve bacteria, bacterial, bacteriology, bacteriologist, etc.

By Nancy Bianchi 1/2002

College of Medicine | COMET | Campus Blackboard | College of Nursing and Health Sciences | University of Vermont Medical Center


Dana Medical Library, University of Vermont

Medical Education Center, 81 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, VT 05405-0068

phone (802)656-2200 - fax (802)656-0762