Paper and Presentation Research: Keyword / Subject Searching

This can be used as a guide for doing library research.

Keyword / Subject Searching

1) Use KEYWORDS to begin your search. KEYWORD searches look at all the fields of a catalog record; they can often produce very large search result sets with irreleveant resources.

2) Locate a record that looks potentially interesting, view the full record (click on the title), and then take note of the SUBJECT TERMS.

3) Try searching with the SUBJECT TERMS, which will produce smaller results set with only those records that are about that subject. In this example, note that there may be more than 1 subject term to explore. You can search for several SUBJECT TERMS together using the boxes in the Advanced Search feature or using Boolean operators -- refer to this tutorial if you're not familar with them.


SUBJECT TERMS (also called Subject Headings) are standard vocabulary used to describe the subject of a resource in a catalog record. Subject Terms range from very broad to very specific.

  • For instance, searching for the subject term Art, Chinese will return many, many records on a wide range of architectural topics.
  • Searching for Art, Chinese Song-Yuan dynasties, 960-1368 however, will return a smaller set of records that are specifically about art from this time period in Chinese history.
  • Similarly, searching for Art, Chinese Song - Yuan dynasties, 960-1368 - Exhibitions will return only those records that are specifically about this exhibitions of art from this period in Chinese history.
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