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This is the "What is a Subject Heading?" page of the "Research Skills - Subject Headings" guide.
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Research Skills - Subject Headings  

Last Updated: Feb 9, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

What is a Subject Heading? Print Page

Contact a Librarian

Reference Desk  951-785-2396

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  • Chelsi Cannon
  • Jeff de Vries
  • Hilda Smith
  • Christina Viramontes

Hours Librarians On-Duty:

  • 8am-noon
  • 1-5 pm
  • 6-10 pm
  • Fri 8am-1pm
  • Sun 1-5, 6-10pm

(Warning! Check library webpage - hours change during test week, summer session and holidays)


LC Subject Headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are topical  descriptions of the information contained in the item (books, articles, media).  There are more than 300,000 in 6 large red volumes at the Reference Desk and found in the online catalog.  They are widely used and accepted in North America and around the world.

Any book or other item may have one or more subject headings assigned to it by trained professionals at the Library of Congress (LC).  Some examples of LCSH are:

  • Photography of Cats
  • Cerebral Dominance
  • Theatre Organ Music
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Church and State -- Soviet Union


Subject Searching in LSU's Online Catalog

You'd think you could enter any topic as a Subject search in the online catalog. However, the Subject search uses LCSH terms to organize books by subject. If you enter your keywords as a Subject search, you may not get much back.

For example:

If you entered a Subject Heading search for: acquired immune deficiency syndrome you would get NO books. The catalog would direct you to the official LCSH heading... AIDS (Disease).

If you entered a Subject Heading search using Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) term, AIDS (Disease) you would see the LSU Library has around 27 books, plus many more with subheadings attached.




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