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Searching Subject Authorities (Library of Congress Authorities Help)

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Searching Subject Authority Headings

Select the search type Subject Authority Headings on the main search screen to browse authority records for words or phrases found in a controlled vocabulary (a standard set of words or phrases that reflect the topic of an item).

Subject authorities are established by the Library of Congress (and cooperating partners) and used in LC Online Catalog records.

Authority Records available for...
- Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)
- Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT)
- Library of Congress Annotated Card Program (AC headings/Children's Subject Headings)

Authority Records not available for ...
- Subject subdivisions individually
- LCSH subject headings combined with free-floating subdivisions
- Several Library of Congress thesauri, including: Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms (LCDGT), Library of Congress Medium of Performance Thesaurus for Music (LCMPT), Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM), and the Ethnographic Thesaurus (AFSET)

LCSH, LCGFT, and Children's Subject Headings are searchable as Subject Authority Headings. Most name, title, and name/title authority records and references also appear in the Subject Authority Headings index. However, it is important to select the appropriate search type to ensure retrieval of all relevant authority records in these categories.

Subject Authority Heading Search Examples:

To browse the Subject or Form/Genre Heading . . . Enter the words . . . Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, 1769-1821 Abdication, 1814 napoleon i emperor Art, African Exhibitions art african exhibitions O'Neill, Eugene oneill eugene Berenstain Bears (Fictitious character) berenstain bears Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary (Calif.) sacramento san joaquin estuary Carving (Meat, etc.) carving meat Pantomimes (Music) pantomimes

Search Tips:

  • Begin with word roots
    Because searches match all words in your search string, beginning with the left-most word, consider starting your search with a word (or root of a word) that describes the topic (a search on the "word root" heli would return the topics helicobacter, helicopter, heliports, helium, helix, etc.). Review your search results and identify desired headings.
  • Truncation is automatic
    Searches are automatically truncated and retrieve subject heading authority records that begin with the words or phrases entered. You do not need to use the question mark (?) for truncation.
  • Retain punctuation found in the middle of words and numbers
    Punctuation (e.g. semicolons, periods, hyphens, slashes, etc.) found at the end of words or phrases is ignored. The double dashes that generally occur between subject subdivisions are also stripped automatically. However, you need to retain punctuation found in the middle of words and numbers (e.g., "401k plans" or "401(k) plans" display in different places in Headings Lists).

How to View Authorities and References:

Your search results will be presented as a browsable Headings List of all subject headings in the LC Online Catalog, whether the headings have authority records associated with them or not.

Note: Headings in the LC Online Catalog that end with the legend "[from old catalog]" were assigned before the online cataloging era and may not be associated with a records in Library of Congress Authorities. In addition, the Headings List may display headings from in-process catalog records for which authority records will be made in the near future.

You will be placed at the point in the Headings List most closely matching your search words. To browse through the Headings List, select to view headings that precede your search words alphabetically or scroll down to view headings following your search words. To retrieve authority information, references, and/or notes for a heading, select the icon shown to the left of the heading.

Please consult the following Help Screens for more detailed information:

Use the browser's [Back] button to exit help and resume searching.
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December 4, 2015