Keyword vs. Subject Searching TutorialPresentation Transcript
Keyword vs. Subject SearchingBy Lori Annesi, Pam Czaja, Alice Harrington,Stephanie Hranjec and Michael McCulloughMonroe Community College
By the end of this tutorial, you will be ableto: Define a keyword and subject heading. Understand when to use keywords and subject headings. Know the advantages of keyword and subject searches. Know the disadvantages of keyword and subject searches.
What is a keyword? Keywords describe the main ideas of your topic. Keywords are significant word(s) from a title or part of the text. A keyword search may be one or more words. Keywords may be a phrase (two or more words- sometimes searched using quotation marks, such as “freedom of information”).
Example of keywords:Topic: Does the death penalty lower the murder rate?Keywords may be: death penalty, capital punishment,murder prevention, homicide rates, criminal statistics andexecution.Depending on the database used, it may be helpful to havequotes around some terms, such as, “death penalty” or“capital punishment”.
When to use keywords? When just beginning your search process. To search for a phrase. When you don’t know subject headings for your topic.
Advantages of keyword searches: A keyword search usually looks for the word(s) anywhere in the document. You do not need to know specialized, technical language. You usually receive a larger number of results than if you did a subject search.
Disadvantages of keyword searches: A keyword search may retrieve too many results, including ones that aren’t relevant to your topic. If searching with two or more words they may be found anywhere within the document, in any order.
What is a subject heading? Subject headings are a standardized set of terms within a database or research text used to identify subjects. In an MCC library database, all books about the death penalty will use the subject heading “capital punishment”. You can find all materials related to this topic with one search, instead of having to use many keywords.
Example of a book record from the MCClibrary catalog:
Advantages of subject heading searches: Subject heading searches usually find fewer articles or books, but the ones found may be more useful to your topic. The computer matches your search term against an organized list of subjects, instead of randomly looking for a word throughout a record or article. Subject heading searching is useful for finding personal and geographic names.
Disadvantages of subject heading searches: The database only looks for your search term in the subject field. Guessing the subject heading term usually doesn’t work. You must know the exact word or phrase used by the database you are searching.
Helpful hints: Find synonyms (different words that mean the same thing) using a thesaurus if necessary, to broaden or narrow your search (example: juveniles, teenagers, adolescents, children, youth). Look for keywords in an on-line or print encyclopedia. Put the most important word first. Search a library book catalog to find subject headings.
Helpful hints continued: Use truncation to expand the search (terror* will retrieve terror, terrorism, terrorist, terrorize, etc). Spelling counts; not all databases will correct your misspelled words. If you are not finding any useful articles or books, check the help screen to find out exactly how words are searched in the database. Ask a Librarian. Go to Library Research Guides Updated 8/2012