A subject heading is a specific word or phrase used to find and organize books and articles by topic. Subject headings can be a great way to easily find things related directly to your topic. Once you have identified a book or article that is worthwhile, look at the subject headings. In the online catalog these are found in the "catalog record" and you can click directly on the subject heading to get a list of books on the same subject.
These subject headings, also known as subject descriptors, may not be what you would expect. You might, for instance, go to our catalog and search for autobiographies and Nobel Prize winner, but the Library of Congress uses the term Personal Narrative instead of autobiography. If you fail to search using the term "personal narrative," you may miss some useful items.
Subject headings can often be found on the page of a book that provides the publisher's information, or at or near the bottom of the page of an online record of a book or article. The subject heading can be used to search for related books or articles when copied exactly as printed.
Subject headings are important because you can use them to find similar information more efficiently. Since they are the way a database or catalog defines a topic, searching by subject can be a more precise way to find the information you are looking for. Also in many search tools subject headings are displayed as links so you can click on them and get more books or articles on that specific topic.
In the library catalog and many databases, an items's subject(s) will be a link, so that you can click on the subject heading to find similar items. You also might want to note the exact words to search them as a keyword later.
This link will take you to the 645 sources that have been categorized under the subject heading Artists' Materials.
This link will take you to the 1,143 sources that have been categorized under the subject Heading Art -- Technique
Much of the information in this box comes from the Subject Headings section of the Research Process subject guide by librarians at the Waidner-Spahr Library at Dickinson College.