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Library Instruction: Keyword vs. Subject Term

Search Strategies: Using Keywords

A Keyword is a term that conveys the principle concept of your topic. A Keyword offers a flexible and convenient way to start searching. 

First, consider your research topic as a question or a thesis statement.

Then, make a list of keywords using the words in the question/statement.

    For example, for the question 
    “What effect did the Carpetbaggers have on the economy of the southern United States after the Civil War?” 
    sample keywords are “carpetbaggers” “Civil War” "United States" "south" and “economy

    Think about the significant terms, concepts and words that describe your topic - these ideas are the key to searching for information on your subject in library catalogs, online databases and other resources.

    Search Strategies: Using Subject Terms

    Controlled Vocabulary also known as subject terms or subject headings are the official indexing terms created by librarians and used by the organizers of a database to describe each concept. 

    When using Controlled Vocabulary your search results will be more focused and relevant. 

    You will find subject terms listed in the catalog record of the item you are searching. Use these subject terms to assist you in finding more resources that fit your topic. 


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