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Browsing EBSCO Databases Using the Thesaurus

Many EBSCO databases feature a subject specific thesaurus of subject terms that relate to content on those databases. For example, Education Source features an education thesaurus. The thesaurus allows you to browse for subject terms you can use to search the database. Subject terms are assigned based on article content, allowing you to create a targeted search.

To browse a thesaurus:

  1. To browse a thesaurus of terms available in the database, click the Thesaurus link at the top of the EBSCOhost screen. If you are searching multiple databases, several subject lists may be available. They will appear in the drop-down list.

  2. Select the thesaurus that you want to browse. A new thesaurus-specific Browse Screen is displayed. The thesaurus name appears above the Browse field.

    Note: For information on browsing CINAHL and MeSH headings, see the CINAHL/MeSH Headings Help topic.

    browsing thesaurus

  3. Enter your search terms in the Browse field, and then select from: Term Begins With, Term Contains, or Relevancy Ranked radio buttons and click Browse. A list of headings is displayed and your search terms are retained in the Browse field.

  4. Mark the headings that you want to use, combine your selections with AND, OR, or NOT if needed, and click Add. (You always have the option of searching the terms requested. If a subject heading is not found for your search terms, the terms are displayed at the bottom of the list. You can mark the check box so that your terms are searched as a keyword search.)

  5. Click the Search button. A Result List is displayed.

To browse thesaurus hierarchies:

  1. To browse the hierarchy of a subject term and see its broader, narrower, and related terms, click the hyperlinked term from the result list shown above.

  2. In addition to the hierarchy, a scope note is presented that defines the scope of the term’s coverage.

    Thesaurus hierarchies
  3. The terms within this view can be used to access content in the same way mentioned above.

Using Explode and Major Concept


When you Explode a term, you create a search query that “explodes” the subject heading. The headings are exploded to retrieve all references indexed to that term as well as all references indexed to any narrower subject terms.

In a database with a tree, such as MeSH or CINAHL Headings, exploding retrieves all documents containing any of the subject terms below the term you selected. In other databases, exploding retrieves all documents containing the selected term, as well as any of its first level of narrower terms. If a plus sign (+) appears next to a narrower or related term, there are narrower terms below it.

Major Concept

When you select Major Concept for a term, you create a search query that finds only records for which the subject heading is a major point of the article. Searches are limited with specific qualifiers (subheadings) to improve the precision of the search, and limited to major subject headings indicate the main concept of an article.

Combining Explode and Major Concept

If you select both Explode and Major Concept, you retrieve all references indexed to your term (and its narrower terms) and all articles for which the subject heading is a major point of the article.