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Searching the Online Catalog by Subject

There are two primary methods for searching the online catalog for items related to a particular topic: subject searching and word (or keyword) searching. There are advantages and disadvantages to using each method, and sometimes it's useful to try them both.

When you search for a topic by subject, the items you find will be about your topic. In many academic online catalogs including the Contra Costa College Library online catalog, when you conduct a subject search, the computer searches a special list of terms called subject headings. Subject headings are terms which describe what an item is about. A library item is usually assigned one or more subject headings.

Most academic libraries assign subject headings to their resources using the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

For example, if you did a subject search using an appropriate subject heading such as jazz you would get a result showing all the different subject headings using the term jazz.

Catalog showing results of the subject search for jazz. 

You can also click on Subject at the left to view related or narrower subjects, if you want to browse through and see if you can narrow down your search. In the example below, there are 51 items for Jazz, but only 20 for Jazz -- History and criticism.

Catalog showing subject subdivisions related to jazz.


As you use the catalog to find information, you'll see that some items have more than one subject heading, such as the book below.

Catalog result showing multiple subjects for one title - 1

Catalog result showing multiple subjects for one title - 2

There may be times when you need to find items about a person or an organization. You would use a subject search to find these items. (Names of people and organizations will not be listed in LCSH but they are still valid subject headings.)

For example, if you wanted to find items about Miles Davis, you would select the subject option and enter his name (last name first).

Remember, if you were looking for works by Miles Davis, you would search using the author option.

Chapter 2 — Page 5