Learning how to search by subject is a skill that can refine and expand your research capabilities for your coursework at TC and beyond. This is intended as a guide to searching the TC library catalog using subject headings, but the basic principle can be applied to any library catalog and most database searches.

There are two main steps to this process. First, find your subject heading. Then, use your subject heading to search on Educat+. These two steps are broken down below.

Note: This guide will help you find materials on different subjects. If you are interested in one particular book, that is, if you already know the author or title of the book, then you should search by the title or author under the "title" or "author" tabs on Educat+.

What is a Subject Heading?

The Library of Congress pretty much sets the rules for libraries in the United States and for some abroad, too. One of the major things they control are subject headings--that is, the specifically formulated keywords or phrases that are used to describe materials in library catalogs. For example, if you type "cars" as a subject in a typical library catalog, you won't get any results. Instead, you'll be redirected to use the term "automobiles." It's the same thing with movies; if you type "movies" in as a subject, you'll be asked to search for "motion pictures" instead. That's because "automobiles" and "motion pictures" are the subject headings that the Library of Congress has assigned. Subject headings are standardized in this way so that any given resource will be categorized in the same way, instead of having some listed under "cars" and some listed under "automobiles". Learning how to search with subject headings can get you the widest breadth of possible results for your given topic. 

Finding Subject Headings

There are a few ways to find a subject heading. You can search for a subject heading on the Library of Congress Subject Headings site, but because of the the sheer number of Subject Headings possible, this might seem a bit daunting. You can also check the Library of Congress Authorities site to search and find the authorized term used for whatever concept you are searching.

If you already know the general category you are searching for, you can use the Library of Congress Classification Outline, clicking on the area you are interested. This is also very helpful for understanding how the call numbers are organized in our library.

Finally, a good way to find subject headings is to search for a book, article, or other resource you already know or suspect to have a topic like the one you are searching for. Find it on Educat+ and click on the title. Under the details section of the entry, you will see subject headings that this resource is listed under. Use these to construct your search for items with the same subject. 

Searching in Educat+ by Subject

Once you have your subject heading, you are ready to search the TC library catalog using it. Follow the steps below.

1) Open the TC library catalog, Educat+ and click on the "Advanced Search" button on the right of the search bar

2) Click to expand the dropdown menu for the entry that says "Any Field" and change to Subject, as shown below.

image of the advanced search window on Educat+ with a blue arrow pointing to the first search filter field.3) Click the next entry that says "contains". This will open up options for your subject search. If you know the precise subject heading you are looking for, choose "is (exact)". If you are not sure of the exact subject heading, choose either "contains" or "starts with".

4) Enter your subject heading into the search field and see what comes up!

Searching by subject heading can take some trial and error and it may not always bring up the results you are looking for. Nevertheless, it is a good tool to have in your research toolbelt as you expand the different ways to gather resources. If you have any issues with subject searching, submit a ticket and we can help. Happy searching!