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Keyword vs. Subject Headings
Keyword searching is how you typically search web search engines (ex. Google). Think of important words or phrases and type them into the search fields to get results.
When you search by keyword you are searching for words and phrases that can be found anywhere in the text of the article.
Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database. Use these headings to find relevant items on the same topic. Searching by subject headings is the most precise way to search article databases.
To find subject headings for your topic:
- Look to see if the database has an online thesaurus to browse for subjects that match your topic.
- Start with a keyword search, using words/phrases that describe your topic (ex. “invasive plants”).
- Browse the results; choose 2 or 3 articles that are relevant.
- Look at the Subject Headings listed below the article title and note the terms used.
- Redo your search using those terms.
- Your results will be more precise than your initial keyword search.
Using Database Subject Terms for Searching
Academic Search Complete This link opens in a new window
A general database covering many areas of academic study. Find articles from over 7,000 full-text periodicals and abstracts from more than 11,000 additional journals.
ScienceDirect This link opens in a new window
Online access to many of the journals published by Elsevier science publishing. Subject coverage includes the natural and social sciences.
New York Times, The (1980-present) This link opens in a new window
Full text from 1980 - present.
Environment Complete This link opens in a new window
Offers deep coverage in applicable areas of agriculture, ecosystem ecology, energy, renewable energy sources, natural resources, marine & freshwater science, geography, pollution & waste management, environmental technology, environmental law, public policy, social impacts, urban planning, and more.
GreenFILE This link opens in a new window
Multidisciplinary by nature, GreenFILE draws on the connections between the environment and a variety of disciplines such as agriculture, education, law, health and technology. Topics covered include global climate change, green building, pollution, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, and more. The database provides indexing and abstracts for approximately 384,000 records, as well as Open Access full text for more than 4,700 records.
JSTOR This link opens in a new window
Archives of over one thousand leading academic journals across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as select monographs and other materials valuable for academic work.