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Library 101: Keyword v. Controlled Searching

What am I Searching?

Keyword searching is what you do when you search Internet search engines like Google.  You type some words and it turns up items which match your search terms. 

Most library databases have some form of subject searching and a way to look for items by a particular author as well as by title.  

Getting the Results You Want

By choosing to search only a specific field in a library database, you can get to what you are looking for more quickly.

Check this video out to see how this works.

Keyword Searching

  • Natural language
  • Searches all fields of a catalog record
  • May give results that are not relevant
  • May not retrieve all relevant records

Subject Searching

  • Must use language determined by others
  • Searches only certain fields such as author, title or subject headings (descriptors)
  • May need to use sub-headings to narrow topic
  • Generally retrieve records relevant to topic