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HIST 174Q - Poverty, Inequality, and Social Justice (Miller, Spring 2024): Subject Headings & Keywords

Subject Headings

Subject headings are specific, predefined terms that the Library of Congress assigns to printed material. The indexers who assign subject headings must use only terms that are listed in this "controlled vocabulary,"  which typically does not include multi-disciplinary or complex topics. Below are examples of subject headings:                                                                  

Child welfare

Political planning


Public policy

Social justice in art

Social policy

Social justice and education

Social sciences


gender inequality

income inequality

pay equity - united states

wages - women - united states

income - united states



Unlike Subject Headings which use a precise, controlled vocabulary, Keywords are your own search terms that best express the essence of your topic. 

Advantages to using keywords:

  • allows you to combine different concepts. Each concept is separated by AND (sugar AND slavery AND british empire). 
  • you can add synonyms and like terms to increase your search results (industry OR market OR trade OR commerce)
  • you will retrieve items that may be on topic but that were not given a relevant subject heading
  • you can use the asterisk* symbol to include alternate endings to your root word:  colonial* will retrieve all records with the word colonial, colonial, colonialism, colonialist, and so forth.

Disadvantages of using keywords:

  • your results may include items that are unrelated or completely off topic
  • you will be searching multiple fields within the catalog record, not just the Subject Headings. This means you will get all results where your keyword appears in the Publisher, Author, Language, or other field in the record


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