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Locating and Using Subject Headings

A guide to subject headings and controlled vocabulary as used in UC Library Search and databases

Welcome and outcomes

Welcome! Here we'll discuss subject headings and keywords: what they are, how to locate them, and how to use them to improve your research.


After reading this guide and doing the included activity, you should:

  • know what subject headings are;
  • understand the difference between subject headings and keywords;
  • know how to locate subject headings in UC Library Search; and
  • know how to locate official subject headings in databases, and use them to locate resources in your field.

Subject Terms vs. Keywords


Watch the video shown above, then go to the Library's A-Z Databases list ( There are a number of databases listed on the right under "Popular databases." Take a look at two databases listed there: Academic Search Complete, an EBSCO database, and PsycINFO, a ProQuest database. Try a few searches in each database for practice.