What is a subject heading?
A subject heading is a standardized word or phrase which describes a concept or topic. If you want to find a book about the dismissal of government employees who disclose waste or fraud in government, how do you know what words or phrases to use to find the book? You could use "firing", "dismissal", or "termination. " You could also use "employees" or "government employees" or "workers." Any of these words could work but in order to group together books on similar topics, libraries use standardized lists of words to describe items in a catalog. The library catalog uses the Library of Congress Subject Headings which are listed in a set of five books.
Subject Searching in the Library Catalog
Use Advanced Search (the default screen) to locate keywords anywhere in the record or in the subject field. Select Subject from the drop-down menu to limit your search to the subject field. Terms may be entered in any order.
Use BROWSE to find an alphabetical listing of Subject Headings that begin with your search term. Type in your Library of Congress Subject Heading term or phrase, then click on the Subjects button. A list of results that match or most closely match your term(s) is displayed.
To Access BROWSE from the main search screen, click BROWSE, located on the right side of the screen.
- In the Library Catalog, click BROWSE
- In the Browse on box, type frozen ground
- Click the Subjectbutton
In this example, the library drop-down menu is set to ALL.
Your results should look something like the image below-- an alphabetical list of subject headings and subheadings.
If you click the second line of 400 items for the subject heading "frozen ground", the screen below appears:
To get additional information about a book, click Details .
Continuing our example:
- Click Details for item number #4, the book entitled Laboratory studies of gas permeability of frozen soil.
- On the Details page, you will see the tabs Item Information and Catalog Record. Click Catalog Record.
On the Catalog Record screen, you'll see additional subject terms used to describe this book; they are:
- Underground pipelines--Arctic regions.
- Natural gas pipelines--Arctic regions.
It's a good idea to look at the subject headings you've found for a book that looks promising to you; you may find other subject approaches that you hadn't thought of.