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The EBM Medical Literature Search

What is a Controlled Vocabulary?

Controlled vocabulary is also known as Subject Headings, or Subject Indexing. Articles are cataloged with terminology that the database uses to describe the contents of the particular piece. What this means is that the title can be cataloged with a specific subject heading even if that particular word (or group of words) is not explicitly stated within the article. 

This can enhance your search as now you are retrieving articles that are about a subject, not just containing your subject's key words. 

Controlled Vocabulary can be found here: 

Emtree (Embase)

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) 

MeSH (Pubmed, Cochrane) 


Emtree is Embase's hierarchically structured, controlled vocabulary thesaurus. This Embase chart explains the difference between MeSH and Emtree. 

  • To view Embase's "What is Emtree and how do I use it" support page, click HERE


Additional terms can be seen within the citation. These terms can be seen with a tiny three-dot symbol next to them. Click on this symbol to view its Emtree entry. Once in Emtree, move up the branch to view broader terms, and down the branch to view more narrow terms. When you click on a new term, you can then search the term, or go to advanced search. 

Mesh stands for Medical Subject Headings and is Pubmed's MEDLINE controlled vocabulary. Not all articles in Pubmed will contain MeSH terms. 

TIP: To view the National Library of Medicine's MeSH tutorial, click HERE

To look up if a MeSH term exists, choose "MeSH" from the search bar's drop down on the main page then type in your word or term.  Click search. 


The below image shows MeSH within an article. If the article provides MeSH terms, you can view them below the abstract. 

Cochrane offers MeSH searchin via the advanced search option. 



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Last updated on Apr 23, 2024 3:12 PM