Keywords are natural language words we use to denote or describe a topic. This is the most common method when using a search engine like Google.
Subjects are pre-defined, authoritative words or phrases (called a controlled vocabulary) used by databases to consistently describe and systematically organize content.
Why is this important?
Too few results or too many?
Keywords are more flexible and allow for more combinations of concepts, but can yield too many, too few, and often irrelevant results. Moreover, databases search for keywords anywhere in the record, which may not correlate to the actual content of the article, book, etc.
Subjects allow for less flexibility and you need to know the exact terminology, but assigned subjects more accurately describe the content of an article or book.
How do I find subject headings?
If the individual database you are using has a thesaurus you can search or browse for subject terms. Look for a link in the top navigation bar for a link to either index(es), thesaurus, subject terms, or subjects.
*Not available when using the combined OneSearch discovery because thesauruses are database specific.
*Database interfaces vary and not all provide a subject thesaurus.