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Understanding Library of Congress Subject Heading: Home

Understanding Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

Why should I bother?

The keywords that I typed are already giving me results. So, is it worth knowing LCSH?

Yes, definitely! Using LCSH can help you be more effective and efficient in your search. They can help you find relevant resources that you might miss with just keyword searching.

Some advantages of using LCSH are :

  • identify specifically what an item is about;
  • identify what type of material an item is;
  • provide more "access points" or paths to relevant materials;
  • make your research more effective and efficient.

LCSH identify what a book or DVD or other item is about using a "controlled vocabulary" system. This means highly structured and specific terms are assigned to an item to accurately describe it.

The library catalog and most databases include the option to search by "subject keyword". If you ente a term in this search that is not included in the assigned LCSH, you may not get results or your results list may have few relevant records. This does not mean that there are few or no works about your topic; it just means that your term is not found in the LCSH system.

There are a number of ways to identify assigned LCSH :

  1. from the library catalog of an item;
  2. from the Cataloging-in-Publication information on the verso (the back of the title page);
  3. from the record of an article in a database which users LCSH in their indexing;
  4. from the Library of Congress website;
  5. from the WorldCat database of library holdings around the world.