Article Summary- Coleth, Margaret H. “Medical Subject Headings Used to Search the Biomedical Literature.”

            Coleth, Margaret H. “Medical Subject Headings Used to Search the Biomedical Literature.” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 8.4 (2001): 317-323. Web. 9 June 2014.


            M. Coleth discusses the history of Medline searching and Medical Subject headings (MeSHes). She starts this history during the Civil War time period with John Shaw Billings; he was studying epilepsy, and had to travel to multiple states to get the information that he needed. Eventually, he would go and work with the Surgeon General, and would start the Index Medicus, which would index medical articles. Then, she goes on to talk about Frank Bradway Billings, during World War II, who would be one of the first professionally trained librarians to hold the post that he did. The 60’s saw more of a push for automating tasks. And in order to make medical information in articles easier to find, medical subject headings were innovated. The articles would be assigned medical subject headings, so that people could look them up. For the print Index Medicus articles, you are only able to look them up by four or so main MeSHes, not really the secondary MeSHes, considered more peripheral. Like Professor Carlito mentioned last fall in LS 501, when connecting to databases was very expensive, librarians would have to come up with their search, make sure they had a plan, before going online. Later, when this wasn’t such an issue, people could use the database searching to redefine their searches, letting the computer do some of the work. At MeSHes’s beginnings, people had to go and have specialty training, and sometimes searchers would not get their results for weeks, when what they needed to look up might be a moot issue. But MeSHes are definitely awesome, because they help us find good information; they can adapt as needed, and have lasted. One of the interesting questions is do MeSHes work with a search engine like Google? We could look at that.


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