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Subject Heading Searching:


When using keywords, terms are being searched in multiple areas, making it more likely that irrelevant results will appear.  With keywords, you may have to use two or three terms to describe one overall thing.

Subject headings, on the other hand, are searched within only one area in a result record which describes the actual content of the resource. They use one term to encompass all synonymous or analogous terms, reducing the guess work on which term you should be using. Subject headings are also known as a controlled vocabulary. This means that you choose them from a predetermined list of terms.

Keyword Searching Subject Heading Searching
Terms that data uses to describe itself Terms that describe what the data is actually about

Searches in multiple areas - title, abstract, and full text

Searches only in the subject heading field of a result record

Results lists are broader and can contain irrelevant results

Results lists are usually shorter and more focused

Can include any term in combination

Chosen from a predetermined list and cannot make changes to them

May need to use multiple analogous terms

One subject heading can cover multiple, analogous terms


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