8. Searching the Library Catalog: Subject Searching
Subject headings are a form of controlled vocabulary. Most library catalogs, including the OSU Library Catalog, use very specific subjects called Library of Congress Subject Headings.
Subject terms are helpful in situations such as:
- There are multiple terms for the same topic (example: cats and felines).
- There are multiple meanings for the same word (example: cookie the food and cookie the computer term).
- There are terms used by professionals and terms used by the general public, including slang or shortened terms (example: flu and influenza).
Often, the easiest way to find subject terms is to do a keyword search and look at the subject terms in records for items that are good matches for your topic.
Try this strategy to find useful subject headings. Remember it by thinking of the letters KISS:
- Keyword search your topic
- Identify a relevant item from the results
- Select subject terms relevant to your topic
- Search using these subject terms
The OSU Library Catalog has its subjects listed in two places when viewing a catalog record:
|Full Record tab|
|Find Similar Items tab|
You can also try to do a subject search, but remember that the terms entered are controlled vocabulary, so you may not find results on your first try (some, but not all, terms will refer you to the proper term to use). Most terms have many subheadings, separated by --. These can have further subheadings.
An example of a very long one:
Searching for a single term as a subject, if successful, will usually give you a screen with links to related subjects, items with only that word (no subheadings) as a subject, and a list (perhaps several pages long) of subheadings.
Example (subject search for beetles, first 10 lines):
Do a subject search for each of these terms. Which has the most lines in the results (hint - look at the number at the top of the SUBJECTS column)?