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Shapiro Library

Getting Started with Research at Shapiro Library

This guide discusses understanding information sources, formulating a topic and search phrase, where and how to search the library for information, how to evaluate sources, how to cite sources, and more.

Subject Searching


Within a database or online catalog, subject searching allows you to search by categories, which are found in the subject field of an item record. Subject terms are pre-defined and used for all items within a database or source that relate to that term.

For example, let's say you found the following article in a database:

Wilson, F. A., & Stimpson, J. P. (2010). Trends in Fatalities From Distracted Driving in the United States, 1999 to 2008. American Journal Of Public Health, 100(11), 2213-2219. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.187179

The subject terms associated with this article might include:

  • distracted driving,
  • cell phones & traffic accidents,
  • traffic fatalities, etc.

By searching for the subject terms supplied by the database alongside this article, you may be able to find similar articles on this topic.

As with any search strategy, you may want to consider what subject searching is most useful for and anything you should be cautious about when using this searching technique:

Most Useful For:

  • Once you find a useful resource on your topic, subject searching allows you to find similar resources.
  • Allows you to broadly search for sources on a topic.

Cautions:

  • Can be difficult to use if the subject associated with a topic isn't obvious.
  • Results will vary from one database to another.

The library has many books and ebooks in our collection which can help answer your questions about subject searching. Check out the sample books and web resources listed in this FAQ for additional information.