Answered By: Emily King
Last Updated: Jul 30, 2015     Views: 944

A subject search involves searching only the subject field of a database or catalog record (unlike a keyword search which searches all the items: subject, title, author, and abstract).

Subject headings are assigned by a person to best describe what an item (article, book, DVD, etc.) is about. For consistency, subject headings assigned to an item will be selected from an approved list of terms (such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings).

Subject Searching Tips:

  • Use a subject search for single, broad topics (ex. global warming, stem cell research, illegal immigration).
  • You cannot combine multiple search terms with a subject search. Use a keyword search instead if your topic deals with more than one concept (ex. global warming and hurricanes).
  • A subject search will return focused, precise results, but you may miss a small number of relevant items.
  • If you have a hard time determining the correct subject heading for your topic, try this:
    1. Start with a keyword search using relevant search terms.
    2. Scan your result list to find a relevant item (article, book, DVD, etc.).
    3. Open the item record and look at subject headings assigned to it in the subject field.
    4. Click on the subject heading that's most relevant to your topic.

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