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View of Georgetown campus from the Virginia side of the Potomac

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Databases A to Z

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Subject Research Guides

Searching by Subject Heading (Tag)

One of the main benefits to doing research with library databases over Google is that a real, live human being read the documents in these databases and assigned a set vocabulary--known variously as tags, subject headings, or descriptors--to describe the texts' intellectual content. 

In GEORGE and most other US academic library catalogs, the tags are called Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).  LCSHs are a specialized vocabulary created by the Library of Congress to describe titles uniformly across thousands of libraries.

Article databases such as MLA International Bibliography have their own specialized subject headings. Start with a keyword search and see what the subject headings are in promising results and/or look for lists of their specialized vocabulary under headings such as "Thesaurus" or "Indexes." And you can always Ask Us for help.

If you search by subject heading, you will retrieve documents that really address that term/topic rather than just contain the term.  By contrast, searching by keyword retrieves every document containing your term, even if the entire document is not focused on that keyword.

Sample subject headings from GEORGE and other library catalogs:

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Film adaptations

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Adaptations

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 Twelfth night

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Richard III

English literature -- Film adaptations

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Knowledge -- Literature

Film adaptations

English drama -- Early modern and Elizabethan, 1500-1600

Sex role in literature [narrowed to the Renaissance/Early Modern period]

Women and literature -- England -- History -- 17th century

Feminism and literature -- England [narrowed to the Early Modern period]



Important Government Resources

Searching by Keyword

Searching by Keyword allows you to use the “natural language” you’d normally use to describe a topic (or with terms specific to the period if you're searching in a primary source database), combined with the operators AND, OR, and NOT. Scan the results to identify the official subject headings (tags). Be flexible by trying several keywords as shown below on the "10 Steps to Successful Searching" handout.   Example:

(women OR sex* OR gender OR feminis*) AND african american

Guides by Subject

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