Health Sciences Librarian-Approved Tools: Yale MeSH Analyzer

Sometimes, the search process happens backwards. What I mean by that is that you may find yourself with a stack of articles that you know you want to include in your review, but are then tasked with coming up with the search that will generate these articles and articles like them. The Yale MeSH Analyzer is here to facilitate the task and help you come up with a great list of search terms.

Developed by the team at the Yale University Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, this tool allows you to analyze those perfect articles and extract the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and keywords. This is definitely quicker than scanning each article manually.

Here’s how it works! You’ll be asked to enter the PubMed Identification Numbers (PMIDs) for your articles. You can find these on the individual article pages on PubMed:

You can enter up to 20 PMIDs at once for the tool to analyze. Once you’ve entered all your articles, the Yale MeSH analyzer will spit out a handy table, either online or in an downloadable Excel sheet, that allows you to see what MeSH terms the articles have been tagged with. And, despite what the name suggests, it isn’t limited to MeSH terms. The tool will also give you a list of keywords that the authors have used to describe their own articles.

Let’s take a look at an example: A student is interested in looking at experiences of young menstruating individuals in low-income countries and rural areas. She has managed to find four articles through her limited Google search, but would like to build a more comprehensive search in a few medical databases.

Want to follow along? Access the Yale MeSH Analyzer here. The PMIDs of the articles are as follows:

  • 30611223
  • 24244435
  • 29485336
  • 26436841

This is what the MeSH Analyzer produces for her (click on the image to enlarge it):

All four of the articles are tagged with the MeSH term Menstruation, so that’s a pretty good indication that our student should include it in her search! But one of the articles is also tagged with Menarche and that’s something that our student hadn’t thought to include. Other MeSH terms to think about are Rural Populations, Sanitation and Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice.

The author keywords are also telling:

One article mentions Menstrual hygiene management and the other Menstrual hygiene products. This gives you insight into the various ways different researchers are referring to the same concept. In addition, it allows you to parse your search. Instead of writing every iteration, you can choose to just add menstrual hygiene as a term to ensure that you’re picking up all the varieties.

Congratulations! You now have a great foundation on which to build your search!

Try the Yale MeSH Analyzer for yourself!

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