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A Research Guide: From the Secondary Source to the Primary Source

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Librarians use both classification ("call numbers") and subject headings to organize and describe books and other materials within their collections. Both of these methods make it easy for users to locate all materials related to their search. Classification (most libraries either use "Dewey Decimal System" or the "Library of Congress Classification") ensures that books in a given subject are shelved in close proximity to each other. Subject headings ensure that when you do a search, either in a card catalog or in an online catalog, all books that have information pertaining to a topic will be found and grouped together, regardless of their call number or location within the library.

The Library of Congress has devised a standard list of subject headings, which are used in most libraries today. These headings are added to the cataloging record for the item. When you conduct a search in a card catalog, you will find cards for all of the books with a particular subject heading grouped together. When you perform a search in an online catalog, the system will show you how many records it has found that contain the search term that you are looking for. Each record or hit you find in the library catalog is linked to a catalog description, which tells you the title of the book, author, and publisher and the subject headings that the item is cataloged under. The subject headings in the record are particularly useful for expanding (or narrowing) your search, and giving you ideas for other subject headings to search. Some examples of Library of Congress subject headings related specifically the Battle of Bunker Hill are:

Bunker Hill, Battle of, 1775
United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1783 - Campaigns
Massachusetts - History - Revolution, 1775-1783

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