Keywords and Controlled Vocabulary

Controlled Vocabulary

  • List of preselected terms used to describe the concepts in an article/book - one term for:
    • Synonyms or related terms
    • Singular or plural
    • Different spellings
  • Referred to as:
    • Thesaurus - lists words in groups of synonyms and related concepts
      • Example:
        MeSH (medical subject headings) for Medline
    • Subject Headings
      • Example:
  • Helps you find relevant information


  • Use natural language to find information
  • For a search to be comprehensive, need to consider all possible ways of expressing your idea
  • Examples:
    cancer(s), tumour(s), tumor(s), neoplasm(s)


Content last reviewed: October 2, 2020