Preferred Subject Headings

Preferred Subject HeadingsTo investigate how LC subject headings are related to one another

With the prevalence of online library catalogs, patrons at least have had the option of using keywords to find the books they needed. More serious searchers have even learned how to use their keyword searches to find the “official” subject headings used for their topics. They can then use those subject headings to search more specifically for library materials.

When your results are returned, you can then explore the subject heading by clicking on “expand.” This expanded subject heading display will list the used for, narrower, broader, and related terms for your subject heading. It will also list the sub-headings that can be combined with your subject heading to make it more specific. From here you can either click the “subjects” button again to perform a search for another LC subject heading, or you can click on the subject heading you’ve located to find books on your topic in the WorldCat database. You can also use the broader, narrower, and related terms to lead you to more subject headings for your topic.

For example, let’s try this technique for “domestic violence.” We’ll type “domestic violence” in the search box on the “Find Preferred Subject Headings” page and click “find.” These are the results that are returned.

On this page we see that the LC subject heading for domestic violence is “family violence.” We can also see the keyword terms that “family violence” is the subject heading for, including domestic violence. However, by clicking on “expand” we will get even more information about the subject heading “family violence.”

Subject Heading: …. Used For: ….
Broader Subject Headings: ….
Narrower Subject Headings: ….
Topical Sub-Headings: …..

Here we see the broader and narrower subject headings for “family violence.” The narrower subject headings information can be especially useful if we need to get a bit more specific with our search. Let’s say that we are really looking for information on spousal abuse and we thought domestic violence would be the correct term to use. By examining the narrower terms, we see that “conjugal violence” is listed. That might be a term we want to use for our searches to get us books specifically on spousal abuse. Let’s click on the “expand” link by “conjugal violence” to get more information about this subject heading.

On this page we find that there are even narrower terms for our topic, “husband abuse” and “wife abuse.” If we follow the “expand” links for these subject headings, we can find even more information that will help us with our search for books. By following the expand links in this feature of WorldCat, we can build a comprehensive list of subject terms for our topic, domestic violence. Our list might look something like this when we’ve finished:

Library of Congress Subject Headings:

Family violence
Conjugal abuse
Husband abuse
Wife abuse
Abused women
Abused husbands