s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Cat. & Reference: How to find lots of books on any subject at your library

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cat. & Reference: How to find lots of books on any subject at your library

1. Go to your library catalog and do a keyword search on the topic you're interested in.

2. Once you find a book that matches your topic, click on the record to look at the subjects or subject headings which describe the book. These will usually appear near the end of the record, after the title, author, and information about the number of pages in a book.

3. Click on the subject heading to get more results on the same subject or start over and do a subject keyword search (not just a general keyword search) with all of the words from the subject heading. (It takes more steps to do a search the second way, but it's worth it because this method will catch some books that you won't get by just clicking on the subject heading.)


(a) It's more work to search subject headings than it is to do general keyword searches, but the results you'll get will be more accurate to the topic you're looking for.

(b) Library of Congress Subject Headings are constructed from general to specific, from left to right. If you find a subject heading that is more specific than your research interests, you can broaden the subject search by removing terms at the end of the heading. For example, if you find the following subject heading:

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military facilities--Union--Virginia--Arlington

But you're interested in military facilities anywhere in Virginia, you can shorten it to this:

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military facilities--Union--Virginia

Or to this, for all union military facilities:

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military facilities--Union


(c) Sometimes the topic you're looking for doesn't map perfectly to just one Library of Congress Subject Heading. In that case, do an initial keyword search, then click on multiple matching books and copy down all of the subject headings that look appropriate.

(d) This approach works well for books, but not very well for articles. To search for articles, you'll have to go to a journal database and do a keyword search. You can also find more resources by checking the bibliographies of any books you do find.


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