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How to Research: Search By Subject

Just getting started on a research paper or project? Don't know where to start? This is the guide for you!

Search by Subject

Subject searches are more focused than keyword searches and can provide more accurate results.

Library catalogues and most article databases support subject searches.

Search By Subject

Most library catalogues and article databases will let you search by subject.

The advantage of subject searching is a more focused search.

However, when you start, you likely will not know what pre-determined subject terms describe a topic.

  • For article databases, look for "Subject Terms" or a "thesaurus," or check the Help menu to find out if there is a specialized set of subject terms used.
  • For MHC Library's catalogue (and most library catalogues), subjects are determined from the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Here are some examples of database subject terms generated from a search for "marketing to children":


And here is an example from the Library Catalogue:


A good strategy for subject searching is:

  1. First, use your own terms as a Keyword search.
  2. Then, look at the records retrieved for the search results that are on your topic.
  3. Jot down any good subject terms that are listed and use them later in subject searches, or
  4. Click on the linked subject term.

People as Subjects

A subject search can be especially useful for finding out about authors, rather than finding works by the author. E.g., books or articles about Oscar Wilde rather than works by Oscar Wilde.

Choose a Subject search vs. a Keyword search in the Library Catalogue or an article database to see the difference.