how-to-subjectsearch-databases

 LIBRARY RESEARCH ASSISTANCE

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FACULTY/STAFF > DEPARTMENTS & OFFICESLIBRARY > LIBRARY RESEARCH ASSISTANCE
Searching the Article Databases Using Subject Headings 

When searching for articles in library databases, start with keyword searching (generally, a topic and subtopic combination, maybe even adding a third term as a second subtopic), examine the first page or two of search results. Are the results relevant?




If relevant, find the most relevant article(s). If not relevant, adjust your keyword search terms, and continue as described above. 





Examine the citation fields. Pay close attention to subject headings, write down or copy and paste the subject headings that look most relevant into a new search in a new browser window.

Specify subject search from the pull-down menu to the right of the search box.


  • Remember subject searching is most helpful in catalogs and databases that use one particular controlled vocabulary; for instance, library catalogs use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to classify books in libraries. Databases that have a specific link or tab on the search screen that says “Thesaurus,” (i.e. MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycArticles, etc.), generally signify one particular controlled vocabulary; databases that use the tab “Subject Search” rather than Thesaurus allow for subject searching too but often use a combination of several different controlled vocabularies. This works too, just tends to produce less precision in results retrieved.

  • Note: subject headings are also helpful even when you’re not planning to switch to subject searching but to continue with keyword searching. By paying close attention to subject headings of relevant articles in your search results, you can learn the preferred terminology of your search topic(s) in the database and improve your searches through incorporating this vocabulary.







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