Online Catalog--Keyword Searching

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The topic is the beginning of every research project. The library collection is a rich source of information on just about any topic you can imagine. The concepts associated with the topic are the keys that will unlock the door to that information, and the library’s online catalog is the door.

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Accessing the Catalog

To get to the online catalog, on the library's home page click the Catalog tab.

By default, the “keywords anywhere” search is automatically selected. This search is a very general search and is an excellent way to begin mining the information in the catalog. A “keywords anywhere” search will search every word in every record in the catalog for the search terms you use.

Keyword Searching: An Example

Let’s take the topic Influences on Caribbean Architecture, for example. Using these three concepts, we can construct a logical keyword (or Boolean) search: influences and Caribbean and architecture. Enter those terms into the text box and click the Search button.

The number of results you get will depend on how many catalog records include the terms you use in your search. In this case, there are only two such records. This does not mean that these are the only items in the collection with information on this topic, however.

The Importance of Vocabulary

Database searching is very much a matter of persistence and a matter of trial and error. It is also a matter of vocabulary.

Consider a few alternatives to the three original search terms:

  • Influences—Influence, Inspiration, Foundation, Style.
  • Caribbean—West Indies, West Indian, Island.
  • Architecture—Buildings, Construction, Structure, Design.

You can probably think of many more. Different combinations of terms will produce different results lists. Experiment, but be prepared to commit some time to this effort. (For more on Boolean searching see the Boolean Searching tutorial.)

Subject Headings

Once you start to find material on your topic, you will want to switch to a much more focused type of searching—subject searching. You can do this directly from inside the catalog record of any appropriate source. For example, click the title for the book Caribbean Style to open the full record, then click the Catalog Record tab .

You see three subject term fields near the bottom. The first term in each field is the main subject, which is then followed by sub-headings, sub-sub-headings, and so forth. Clicking any of these hyperlinks will produce a focused list of material that is related to that specific subject heading.

Learn More

For more on subject heading searching, see the tutorial Online Catalog—Subject Searching.


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Research Department Updated 4/15

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