CSUN WordmarkOviatt Library Wordmark

Research Strategies 1: Getting Started: Keyword Vs. Subject

Keyword Searching

  1. Use keyword when your term may be very new, very distinctive, or jargon, e.g. "instant messaging", "XML".
  2. Use a variety of keywords. There may be additional items on your topic that use different terms.
  3. Be aware that you may retrieve items not related to your topic (called false drops)
  4. When you cannot remember the exact title of an item, do a keyword search using the title words you remember.

Keyword Searching Examples

Variety of terms: If you are looking for items on the "movies", use additional keywords such as "film", "films", "cinema", or "motion pictures".

An example of retrieving results unrelated to your topic (false drops): using the keyword "cricket" will retrieve items about the sport as well as the insect.

An example of using keywords to find titles when you are unsure of the exact title:

Both CAGED and BIRD are in 6 titles.
There are 6 entries with CAGED & BIRD.

You searched for the WORDS: bird caged
Found 6 items:

  1. Caged bird medicine : selected topics / Charles V. Steiner (1981)
  2. I know why the caged bird sings (1969)
  3. Many voices. 8A-6B (sound recording) : for Adventures for re (1986)
  4. Maya Angelou / Miles Shapiro (1994)
  5. Poco / by Garry and Vesta Smith; illustrated by Fred Crump (1975)
  6. Voices in Black & White : writings on race in America from H (1993)

Subject Searching

  1. New topics may not yet be included in the database's controlled vocabulary.
  2. Using the appropriate subject heading for a topic will retrieve all items in the database indexed under that topic.
  3. If you do not know the appropriate subject heading for your topic, conduct a keyword search first and look at the subject heading(s) of a relevant item.

Subject Searching Examples

Looking at the results, you would hopefully recognize the book you were seeking (in this case, #2).

  1. Conduct a keyword search using the term "ocean birds"
    You searched for the WORD: ocean birds
      QL673.L73 1984b
    Author: Lofgren, Lars.
    Title Ocean birds: their breeding, biology & behavior / Lars Lofgren.
    Publisher Beckenham, Kent: Croom Helm, c1984.
    Description 240 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
    Bibliography Bibliography: p.236
    Subject Sea birds.
  2. Once you have a relevant item, check the subject heading.
  3. Now conduct a subject search using the correct subject heading, sea birds.

    You searched for the SUBJECT
    : sea birds.
    23 SUBJECTS found with 37 ENTRIES
    1. Sea Birds---3 related Subjects
    2. Sea Birds- (11 entries)
    3. Sea Birds--Behavior
    4. Sea Bird-Ecology

By selecting #2, you will get a list of all the items on the topic of ocean birds (indexed in the database as "sea birds"). Note also the list of subject headings allows you to locate items on more specific topics as well as related topics.