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BCHEM/CHEM 395: Research in Chemistry

Resources for upper level students involved in research in the field of Chemistry

How to Get Better Search Results by Using Subject Headings

When you're researching a topic, do you find yourself rephrasing your search over and over again, getting new, relevant sources each time? If so, consider searching with subject headings!

Subject headings are different from keywords. Subject headings are used to group materials (like books and articles) based on their topic so that they can be searched and retrieved together, regardless of the original language of the work or the keywords used in the title. The most widely-used approved list of standardized subject headings is Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

Frequently, the library catalog uses terms that are very different from the keywords you may come up with on your own. For example, if you're researching "test tube babies," you won't get many results by using that phrase. You'll get many more matches if you search using the LCSH "Fertilization in vitro, Human".

By using subject headings, you no longer need to think of a near-endless amount of synonyms for your research topic, such as popular vs. technical variations (salt/sodium), different linguistic origins (sweat/perspiration), generic vs. brand names (tissues/Kleenex), dialectical variants (flashlights/torches), lexical variantsabbreviations vs. full forms, acronyms, common misspellings, or near synonyms!

Once you find relevant LCSHs, you can use them to search in both Locate and ScholarSearch.

  • When using Locate, select "Subject" from the dropdown menu and type in/paste your subject heading.
  • When using ScholarSearch, go to "Advanced Search," select "SU Subject Terms" from the dropdown menu, and type in/paste your subject heading.

In our ongoing effort to provide a diverse and inclusive range of resources, we want to inform you that our catalog may contain Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) that are offensive, outdated, or insensitive. These subject headings are reflective of historical cataloging practices and may include biases or language that were deemed acceptable at the time of their creation but are considered harmful today.

We recognize that societal attitudes and language evolve, and certain terms may not align with contemporary standards of inclusivity and sensitivity. It's important to note that we do not endorse or support discriminatory language; rather, we aim to preserve the integrity of historical records while being mindful of changing perspectives.

We encourage users to approach these materials with a critical perspective, recognizing that the presence of certain language or terminology does not reflect the values or viewpoints of the Drew University Library faculty and staff. If you have concerns about specific content or subject headings, we welcome your feedback to help us continually improve and update our cataloging practices. Please email us at and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we strive to maintain an environment that is inclusive and respectful to all!

Advanced Searching Techniques

  • If your search term is a phrase (more than one word), use quotation marks to indicate that the order of the words is important.
  • For example, if you are searching for information about the New England region of the United States, you should search "New England." If you don't use quotation marks, your results will be filled with resources that contain the words "New" and "England" but not necessarily in the correct context.
  • Boolean operators allow you to combine search terms by using the following words: AND, OR, NOT
  • When you want your results to include both of your search terms, use the boolean operator AND between them.
    • For example, if you're researching the history of horror fiction, you can search: "horror fiction" AND history. All of the results you receive will include both of those terms.
  • When you want either one of your terms to be included in your results (not both), use the boolean operator OR between them.
    • For example, to get results involving either New England or Maine, search: "New England" OR Maine.
  • When you want to completely exclude a term from appearing in your results, use the boolean operator NOT before the keyword.
    • For example, if you wish to research the Jersey Devil cryptid but are overwhelmed by the amount of results focusing on the New Jersey Devils hockey team, search: "Jersey Devil" NOT hockey
  • To construct complex searches with multiple boolean operators, you can nest portions by using parenthesis.
    • For example, you can search ("Jersey Devil" OR "Leeds Devil") NOT hockey to research the cryptid using both of its names and excluding results that revolve around the hockey team by the same name.
  • Truncation allows you to search for a word that can end in a variety of ways. To do this, insert a (*) in the spot where the spelling of the word can change.
    • For example, searching child* will give you results that include child, children, childhood, childish, childlike, and so on.
  • Be careful that you don't place the truncation symbol too early in the word as you will end up with many irrelevant results.
    • For example, if you're researching animation and search anim*, you will get results involving animationanimeanimals, animatronicsanimalisticanimosity, and so on. 
  • Wildcards allow you to search for various spellings of a word at once. A question mark (?) is used to replace an unknown character.
    • For example, searching wom?n will give you results containing womanwomenwomyn, and womxn.

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