Dears in biology stackexchange community, I hope that everyone is fine.

I am using pubmed in my current review. My focus is about an application on the scope of Clinical Trial. When I used MeSH for narrowing my research scope on Clinical Trial, I got two different categories which I cannot find any clear difference between them. They are:

  1. Clinical Trials as Topic
  2. Clinical Trial [Publication Type]

However, when I search on the two different categorises, I found very different resulted papers. That means that there are a difference between the two categories where my ignorance is.

Could you please tell me what is the difference?

Possible examples of two queries: 1. ("Clinical Trial" [Publication Type]) AND "Prostatic Neoplasms"[Mesh] 2. ("Clinical Trials as Topic"[Mesh]) AND "Prostatic Neoplasms"[Mesh]

Many thanks to you for your time, in advance.


1 Answer 1


The actual definitions provided with the MeSH terms look essentially interchangeable:

Clinical Trial as Topic:
Works about pre-planned studies of the safety, efficacy, or optimum dosage schedule (if appropriate) of one or more diagnostic, therapeutic, or prophylactic drugs, devices, or techniques selected according to predetermined criteria of eligibility and observed for predefined evidence of favorable and unfavorable effects. This concept includes clinical trials conducted both in the U.S. and in other countries.

Clinical Trial [Publication Type]:
A work that reports on the results of a clinical study in which participants are assigned to receive one or more interventions so that researchers can evaluate the interventions on biomedical or health-related outcomes. The assignments are determined by the study protocol. Participants may receive diagnostic, therapeutic, or other types of interventions. While most clinical trials concern humans, this publication type may be used for clinical veterinary articles meeting the requisites for humans.

But the difference is simple. CT as Topic refers to publications that talk about Clinical Trials in general, as a subject itself. But CT[Publication Type] refers to an article that is actually reporting the results/analysis of one or many clinical trials.

To show you what I mean, these are first PubMed results using the two MeSH heading, when you specifically tell the search engine to not include other branching MeSH terms:

Clinical Trial as Topic:
as topic search

Clinical Trial[Publication type]:
pub type search

  • $\begingroup$ Dear Maljam, many thanks for your kind, generous and clear answer. You helped me a lot, bless you. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2016 at 20:45

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