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Search Technique Guide

A guide that goes over various techniques to improve your search results in various search engines and databases.

Finding a Subject: in our Catalog

In our catalog (WMS Discovery System) the subject headings are found on the item page (after you have selected the title), below the description, next to the word "Subjects".

Finding a Subject: in a Database (seeing subjects listed on an item page)

In the EBSCO hosted databases the subject headings are found beneath the item description (below the title and the publication information) after the word "subjects". Within the item page (after you clicked the item's title) the subject headings are again listed after the word "subjects".

In the ProQuest hosted databases the subject headings are found within the item pages (you have to pick the article). Within the Abstract, under Details, you can find the "subjects".

Finding a Subject: in a physical Book

Inside many books, especially those published in the last 30 years, there is an area designated as "Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication". It is found on the back of the title page. Within that little area is the author, title, publication data (place, publisher and date), as well as a list of Library of Congress Subject Headings.

You will also find, at the bottom of the section, the call numbers. The first number is the Library of Congress Call number, it will start with a couple of letters followed by some numbers. The second number is the Dewey Decimal Classification number, three digits followed by a decimal and some other numbers.

Subject Searching: in a Database (Using a Known Subject)

If you already know the "Subject Heading" because you saw it in one of the above examples, it is easy to use it to find other great material. Just copy the "subject" / "Subject Heading" and paste it in the search box. Before hitting "search" you must change the dropdown menu. Depending on the database, change the dropdown to "Subject" / "Subject Heading" / "Major Subject".

The results will now be all items in which that subject represents a bulk of the content.


Subject Searching: in a Database (Using a Thesaurus)

If you don't know the "Subject Heading", try to find and use the "Thesaurus" (might be called "index" or "subject list" or similar).

In the "Thesaurus" you will "browse" with a keyword. The resulting list is the attempt to find the controlled vocabulary, created by librarians. "Controlled vocabulary" is a way to create official terms and keep the lists shorter and more precise. There are different sets of subject headings depending on your field. Most databases use either Sears or LC (Library of Congress). Sears is mostly used with the Dewey Decimal System (what our library uses). MeSH is the MEdical Subject Headings list, used in most medial databases.

Find the word or subject closest in meaning and read its "Scope Note" / "Definition". If it is not the right term, search again. If it is the right term, tic the box and "Search" the database. The results will now be all items in which that subject represents a bulk of the content.