Subject headings, descriptors and thesauri terms are examples of "controlled vocabularies." They are lists of pre-defined, carefully selected words and phrases used to classify and organize information. Subject headings and thesauri terms describe the general content of a book, an article, an essay, or other information unit.
The keyword search is based on an exact word match; a subject or thesaurus search locates records by assigned subject or descriptors. searching with subject headings or thesauri terms allows you to more precisely retrieve relevant information on your topic. Use subject headings and the thesaurus to:
Identify all the major concepts of your thesis or research topic. Then use the thesaurus or subject index to locate, explore and select subject terms for each concept of your topic.
1. Click Subject Terms or Thesaurus in the top menu bar. (Several subject lists may be available to select from if you are searching multiple databases.)
2. On the thesaurus browse screen:
Enter your term or subject, select the display option (Term Begins With, Term Contains, or Relevancy Ranked), and then click the Browse button.
3. Mark one or multiple terms. Click Add. (Or, click a subject term to view the Scope Note, Broader Terms, Related Terms or Narrower Terms.) Your marked subject headings are added to the top search box. Add additional keywords or other thesaurus terms to your search, as needed.
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In a psychology database, use the thesaurus to browse psychology subject headings related to term, identify broader and narrower psychology terms, or limit your results to related subjects.