Library of Congress Online Catalog: Help Pages

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Subject Browse

This search compares entered words or phrases to those found in a controlled vocabulary (a standard set of words or phrases that reflect the topic of an item, see below...). Use this search when the exact order of the words/phrases in the heading is known.

Subject Browse retrieves materials by subject using controlled vocabulary headings.
Subject Browse screen

Search limits
are not available.
Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) are not available.

The most commonly used controlled vocabulary at the Library of Congress is the latest edition of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). In addition to presenting a controlled list of subject headings in alphabetic order, LCSH shows the relationships among those headings and provides other valuable information, such as scope notes that clarify usage and Library of Congress classification numbers that are associated with a particular subject heading. Users are encouraged to consult this list as part of an effective search strategy.

Subject Browse Search Examples:

To browse the Subject Heading . . . Enter the words . . .
Alexander the Great, 356-323 B.C. alexander the great
Art, African Exhibitions art african exhibitions
O'Neill, Eugene oneill eugene
Kirk, James T. (Fictitious character) Fiction. kirk james
Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary (Calif.) sacramento san joaquin estuary
Carving (Meat, etc.) carving meat

Search Tips:

  • Omit all punctuation, including double dashes before subject subdivisions. For example: enter united states history civil war, not united states--history--civil war. When omitting an apostrophe, close the space; for example, enter oneill eugene (not o'neill or o neill).
  • Conduct a Subject Browse in one of the following two ways:
    • Consult LCSH, or other thesauri/subject lists available in your library in order to identify the correct heading or ask a librarian for assistance. Enter search words or phrases found in LCSH in the box, omitting most punctuation.
    • Start with a word (or root of a word) that describes the topic. For example, a search on the "word root" heli would return the topics helicobacter, helicopter, heliports, helium, helix, etc. Review the search results and identify desired headings. Select the most relevant heading in order to view a Titles List for that heading. Display relevant catalog records individually and select the [Subjects/Content] button to display the assigned subject headings. The headings should appear as hypertext links. Select the heading which most closely describes the topic and perform a search for that subject.
  • Searches are automatically truncated and retrieve catalog records that begin with the words or phrases entered. Do not use the question mark (?) for truncation.

References and Scope Notes:

In search results, some retrieved headings will be marked with the [ More Info ] icon, which provides a link to the established form of the heading or to related headings and scope notes as illustrated in the sample Headings List screen below.

More detailed information on References and Scope Notes is available.

Alternative Search Options:

If you do not find what you are looking for using the Subject Browse search option, try Expert Search or Guided Search. For example, to use Expert Search to find materials related to cooking shrimp and lobster on a grill, enter: shrimp AND lobster AND grill. Display a single record and select the [Subjects/Content] tab. Review the subjects assigned to that catalog record, and select the hypertext link for the most closely matching subject heading listed to search for related materials.

Use the browser's [Back] button to resume searching.

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July 1, 2008