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Research Guides@Tufts

Hirsh Library has shifted to remote operations and virtual library information services are available during online staffed hours.

Systematic Reviews

An introduction to the requirements, search strategies and resources needed to conduct the literature review portion of a Systematic Review

What is a controlled vocabulary?

›“… a carefully selected list of words and phrases, which are used to tag units of information (document or work) so that they may be more easily retrieved by a search…Controlled vocabularies reduce ambiguity inherent in normal human languages where the same concept can be given different names and ensure consistency.” -Wikipedia


  • Created and edited by a "governing body" to introduce new official terms, phase out old ones, and add new mapping for concepts
  • Reduces the burden on researchers of a database by mapping human language synonyms to the official term
  • Searching by a concept or idea, rather than by the presence of a string of letters

Medical Subject Headings in PubMed

The Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) is one example of a controlled vocabulary. It can be used while searching the MEDLINE database via PubMed or OVID.

  • Created and maintained by the National Library of Medicine
  • Subject headings are applied to every article indexed in PubMed to identify key topics of the publication
  • Reduces need to think of synonyms and natural language descriptions 
  • MeSH database allows you to search for the controlled term using keywords and build a search to use in PubMed


MeSH for EBM Searching

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