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EPI 0950 -Field Experience Professor E. Costello: Keywords VS Subjects

This guide is for the course EPI 0950 -Field Experience

Keywords VS Subjects

Subject headings are controlled terms used to describe the content in a database. Use keyword to get relevant search results is the best way to search databases. Think of as many keywords as you can on your topic and combine your key words using Boolean operators as discussed in the Boolean page of this LibGuide.

Here are some key points about each type of search:

  • natural language words describing your topic - good to start with
  • pre-defined "controlled vocabulary" words used to describe the content of each item (book, journal article) in a database
  • more flexible to search by - can combine together in many ways
  • less flexible to search by - need to know the exact controlled vocabulary term
  • database looks for keywords anywhere in the record - not necessarily connected together
  • database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or descriptor field, where the most relevant words appear
  • may yield too many or too few results
  • if too many results - also uses subheadings to focus on one aspect of the broader subject
  • may yield many irrelevant results
  • results usually very relevant to the topic

Other Search Tips