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Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Searching by Subject

What is the difference between a keyword and a subject heading?

Let's say you're in the grocery store, and you're there to get noodles of some kind. Spaghetti is the most common, so you look for a sign that says "spaghetti," but you can't find it. Why can't you find that sign? Because the sign you want says "Pasta" and includes not only spaghetti, but manicotti, macaroni, lasagna, penne, orzo and more.

In this example, Spaghetti is a keyword. Pasta is a subject heading.

If you were to search for spaghetti as a keyword, you might find yourself looking at Spaghetti Westerns on your search screen. Is that what you wanted to find?

Searching for pasta as a subject heading would include the type of spaghetti you want, as well as other types of pasta.

Library Databases are organized by subject heading. Google is not!

Search smart!


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The following links lead you to our online databases, which contain articles, books, podcasts, videos, and more. Also, check out our individual subject guides for more detailed information related to your field of study.

NOTE: To access these databases remotely, you must be logged in to your Portal account! If you are not logged in, clicking on one of these icons will take you to the portal login screen.


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Credo Reference  Icon
Provides full-text online versions of hundreds of top quality reference books in all major subjects from art to medicine, psychology to history, and technology to literature. Includes bilingual and biographical dictionaries.

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Films on Demand  Icon
Thousands of video clips covering a wide range of topics.

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LIRN (Library & Information Resources Network)  Icon
The LIRN collection provides students with millions of peer-reviewed and full-text journal, magazine, and newspaper articles, e-books, podcasts, audio, and video resources to support their academic studies from Gale Cengage, ProQuest, EBSCO, and eLibrary.

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FAITS - Faulkner Advisory for IT Studies service  Icon
This one-of-a-kind online technology reports database was created especially for the academic community. It contains a virtual library of clearly-written reports covering such key technology areas as IT infrastructure, telecom, data networking, wireless communications, security, enterprise systems, the Internet and World Wide Web, as well as technology vendors.

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Faulkner Security Management Practice  Icon
Faulkner Information Services has been a respected provider of IT and communications information services for some 40 years. Our subscribers include business planners, consultants, service providers, IT staff, libraries, technology providers, and government agencies. Faulkner was among the first to deliver its core services in electronic format on CD-ROM, in Lotus Notes, in HTML for intranets, and over the World Wide Web.


Searching Databases

Searching through databases is a great way to find reliable and valid resources on just the subjects you need. However, most databases are NOT Google, and do not act like Google. You must know something about the underlying structure of the database in order to effectively search. Here are a few tips:

Use subject headings or thesaurus terms. Like the Library OPAC, databases use subject headings to organize their materials. Most databases allow you to link to their own subject heading list in order to browse through it. Databases often call their subject heading list a "thesaurus." 

Use Boolean operators. The connecting words AND, OR, and NOT are valuable tools when searching with either subjects or keywords. Using these, you can expand or restrict your search results. Read more about them on the Research & Reference page.

Filter, filter, filter. Use filtering options such as publication date, journal name, related subjects, source type, etc. to make your search more specific.

Use an asterisk (*). Use the asterisk after a search term to find all forms of the term. For example, the search term book* will find books, booked, booker, booking, bookkeeper, etc.

Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase. For example, the database will recognize "study skills" as words linked together instead of searched as separate keywords.