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College Writing 2--Dietrich

Strategies & tips for locating resources for your research project.

Discovering Keywords and Subject Headings

Article databases and library catalogs use what is called a "controlled vocabulary" to describe and categorize books and articles. Often this controlled vocabulary doesn't sound like a phrase or word choice you would use to describe a topic in normal conversation.  The controlled vocabulary can make searching easier and also more difficult.

It can be easier because the same word combinations are used across different systems and vendors, making it possible to use the same search terms and phrases no matter what database or catalog is being searched.

It can be more difficult because you can attempt to do a subject search, but if you aren't using the controlled vocabulary, you can get fewer or less relevant searches.

You can use the indexes provided in online databases to discover subject headings and begin to develop your search strategy.  The Library of Congress, the source of subject headings for library resources, provides a way to search their database of subject headings.

Library of Congress Authorities

The Library of Congress Authorities is a free government website that anyone can search. You can search for subject headings, titles, companies and names. Some headings make sense and are just what you would expect them to be and others can be confusing! Watch the video on the left for searching tips.