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Subject headings to refine searches

Records in Summon, Addison, WorldCat, and other databases like EBSCOhost use Library of Congress Subject Headings to describe and categorize their contents. You can take advantage of these subject headings and their subdivisions to refine your searches in these tools. Add these subdivisions to your searches (put the phrases in quotes) to limit to records with these formats or topics.

Format or function of a work

Indexes – Tools for find what was written, where (comparable to the index in the back of a serious nonfiction book). History [AND] indexes; newspapers [AND] indexes.

Bibliography – Build upon what others have done to identify what has been written on a topic; especially useful for finding authors and works (and the words they used) published before the online era: gambling [AND] bibliography; Plato [AND] bibliography.

Encyclopedias – Important tools for scanning the authoritative parts of the information environment to build your thesis or theory and mine for search terms. Social science [AND] encyclopedias; elections [AND] encyclopedias. Also try the subdivisions Dictionaries, Almanacs, Glossaries.

Sources – Crucial in the search for the primary documents that historical research depends on. Most of the time in a US library catalog you can replace the official subject search, ‘United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Sources,' with the shortcut keyword search, Civil War [AND] sources.

Early works to 1800 – "For individual works written or issued before 1800" even if our library's copy is a reprint issued last year. Depending in your needs, these may be primary or secondary sources. Astronomy [AND] early works to 1800; political theory [AND] early works to 1800.

Case studies – Not just for topics like management, this also finds real-life stories that illustrate personal qualities. Do not confuse with legal cases (as in international law [AND] cases).

Personal narratives – First-person accounts of a variety of topics. Agoraphobia [AND] personal narratives; Crusades [AND] personal narratives. Closely related subdivisions include Diaries, Correspondence, Quotations, and Interviews.

Pictorial works – This subdivision applies when more than half of a work consists of illustrations. Families [AND] pictorial works; Virginia [AND] pictorial works.

Maps – Will include flat maps, atlases, and other works containing maps. France [AND] maps.

Statistics – Data but also data-driven narratives. Education [AND] statistics; alcoholism [AND] statistics. Also try Surveys.

Handbooks, manuals, etc. – How-to information. Often you can get by typing only parts of this subdivision, if you remember the plurals. SPSS [AND] handbooks; dissertations [AND] manuals.

Problems, exercises – Workbooks for practice or review (e.g., languages, research methods): statistics [AND] problems exercises.

Outlines, syllabi, etc. – Try if you need alternative approaches to information from those your instructors used. War [AND] outlines, syllabi, etc; women [AND] outlines syllabi.

Textbooks – Texts that teach about the subject. physics [AND] textbooks. Also try Methods, and Research

Drama, Fiction, In literature, In art,  Poetry, Songs and music – Use for literary, artistic, and musical treatments of a subject. Pollution [AND] fiction; Chemistry [AND] poetry.

Approach or content or a work

Aspects – Use these to emphasize one dimension of any topic. Aspects are especially good for unfamiliar topics.

  • Economic aspects – College sports [AND] economic aspects
  • Environmental aspects  – oil drilling [AND] environmental aspects
  • Health aspects – Soldiers [AND] health aspects
  • Moral and ethical aspects – Wealth [AND] moral and ethical aspects
  • Political aspects – Race [AND] political aspects
  • Psychological aspects – Terrorists [AND] psychological aspects
  • Social aspects – Country music [AND]social aspects

Cross-cultural studies – Explores diversity among different cultural and ethnic groups. Best when the topic matters more than the place. Courtship [AND] cross-cultural studies; advertising [AND] crosscultural

Description and travel – Gateway to the cultural and physical geography of a place – more than just hotel rates and restaurant rankings. Adding this phrase often yields more relevant results than a search on the place name alone. Everglades [AND] "description and travel"; Vatican [AND] "description and travel". (For tourist information, use Guidebooks.)

History and criticism – labels interpretations and critiques, mostly from an arts and literature standpoint. It applies not only particular creative works and creators but also genres. Country music [AND] "history and criticism"; anthropology [AND] "history and criticism"; Marxism [AND] "history and criticism". Also try Criticism and interpretation.

Influence – Interpretations of the effects of well-known people, ideas, or events: Works well with cultural icons: Elvis [AND] influence; Bauhaus [AND] influence.

Public opinion – The attitudes or opinions about a group or topic. How do people feel about smokers? Use Smokers [AND] public opinion . (To get to what members of a group think about your topic, use Attitudes: Attitudes [AND] cigarette smokers.)

Sex differences – For gender issues relating to "individual languages, individual organs [AND] regions of the body, etc." Communication [AND]sex differences; brain [AND]sex differences.

Social life and customs – Works about everyday life; important for social history. Best combined with words for places or kinds of people. Finland [AND] "social life and customs"; Plantation owners [AND] "social life and customs".

Government policy – Good catch-all term for public policy in the broadest sense. Great Britain [AND] government policy; innovation [AND] government policy. (For the origins of policy in a country, use the country name with Politics and government or Foreign relations, as appropriate.)

Law and legislation – Good way to get to formal policy; applies to things. Endangered species [AND] "law and legislation".

Legal status – Another aspect of formal policy; applies to people: Mail-order brides [AND] legal status.


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