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History 352: History of Mexico, Past and Present

Keywords and Subject Headings

The library catalog offers a number of different search options and it is useful to know the most popular and how to use them appropriately.

Be sure to be in the BOOKS & MORE search option.

KEYWORD (i.e., any field) is the default search. This is just like a internet browser search in that any time the typed in word(s) are matched, that record is returned.

  • Benefits
    • Lots of results from harvesting from various fields in each record
    • Options to narrow your results offered in the left hand pane.
  • Drawbacks
    • Lots of results (generally too many to search through)
    • Many are not relevant to your needs
    • Your search term may not conform to scholarly terms used for the topic
    • No cross-match with associated terms
  • Workarounds
    • Put phrases in double quotes "Great Depression" is going to eliminate the mental health references
    • Provide a date or time period (depression and 1929 will get rid of the mental references)
    • Use subject heading search


  • Benefits
    • Searches for your topic and doesn't depend on whether your original topic word is used.
    • Very specific results
    • Sub-headings can be eliminated to broaden the search a bit
    • Used by most academic libraries, so once you know the subject heading, you can search other libraries' collections
    • Groups similar works together for browsing the stacks
  • Drawbacks
    • For library book catalog use, not useful in most databases as they have their own subject heading schema
    • Subject headings are not 'natural language' (the 1929 US depression subject heading is "Depression -- 1929 -- United States"
    • Results may be so focused you miss useful material
  • Workarounds
    • Start with a keyword search and look at relevant results for the appropriate subject headings
    • Talk to the subject specialist librarian for the discipline
    • Start with the broadest subject heading (Depression -- 1929 OR even just Depressions. Note the subject heading for psychological depression is generally Depression in xxxx to help differentiate.)

Browse subject headings

When you are in the results screen in a BOOKS & MORE search, you can browse subject headings by clicking on the "Browse" in the top blue bar. This will open a search box where you can type in the first phrase of your subject (in this case 'depressions' meaning economic, not psychiatric.) You will have a list showing the subject heading and all its listing with sub-headings.