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LS 102 Course Materials

Introduction to Information Research

LC Subject Headings

Most databases use a Controlled Vocabulary, i.e. a list of specific predetermined subject headings to describe or organize the content of database records by subject. For, example, a database may use the subject heading "Capital Punishment" for all records that deal with death penalty, death row, executions, etc. Library catalogs at academic libraries generally use Library of Congress Subject Headings as their controlled vocabulary. In the catalog, each item owned by the library is assigned a number of subject headings to describe the item's contents.

Below, you'll find some excerpts from a typical Library of Congress Subject Headings entry. Note that the appropriate heading is in bold type. Other useful information on the subject is listed under BT for broader term, NT for narrower term, and RT for related term. Unused terms (terms that are synonyms but were not chosen by LCSH) are listed after UF. Subheadings, which can be particularly helpful if your topic is too broad, are preceded by a dash. Cross-references to headings to be consulted if you look up an unused term are listed after "See," "See also," or "Use." The approximate "address" (classification number) of items covering this subject is placed under the term in brackets.

In the table below, you will find the elements of a typical entry in the order in which they appear.

Correct Heading

Bicycles (May Subd Geog)

Classification Number(s)

[HE5736-HE5739] (Transportation) or [TL410-TL438] (Technology)

Unused terms(s)

UF Bikes, Cycles

Broader terms(s)

BT Vehicles

Related term(s)

RT All terrain bicycles, Minibikes, Mopeds


--Law and Legislation, --Speed records, --Tires


Bicycles, All Terrain USE All terrain bicycles

Narrower term(s)

All-Terrain Bicycles