Searching the catalog by subject and keyword

The subject field of a catalog record contains only the words or phrases used by the cataloguer when assigning a subject heading. If the library is using Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), for example, the subject heading for a book about how playing football affects the players' bodies would probably be assigned the subject heading "Football--physiological aspects." Unless you type in that entire phrase as your search term, you won't find the book by searching the subject field.

Subject field searching can be very helpful, but you must find out how the subject you're looking for is worded by using the subject manuals or getting help from the reference librarian. Once you zero in on an appropriate subject heading, a search in the catalog will give you a list of all the items in the library's collection categorized under that heading, so you can browse the collection r-

online. Note also that most items are classified under one or two very specific subject headings, rather than under many subjects.

The keyword field of a library catalog generally searches several fields in the database record--the author, title, and description fields. The description is any information about the catalogued item which may have been entered by the cataloguer. This is not the full text of the book, nor is it an abstract (summary) of the book but rather a short paragraph containing information the cataloguer thought would be helpful to a user. This is not like searching for keywords in an indexed database like Alta Vista on the internet, where every word in a document has been recorded.

For this reason, keyword searching alone could miss an item pertinent to your research project if the keyword you use was not included in the short paragraph written by the cataloguer. It's best to use a combination of keyword searching and subject-field searching to make a comprehensive search of the library catalog.

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