Subject headings are similar to tags in that they are assigned to works that are related to the topic. Unlike a keyword search, subject heading searches will find books that don't necessarily have the term in the title or abstract but are about that subject. You can think of a subject heading results list as a list of recommended books on a topic.
Subject headings can be really helpful in your research, but they aren't available with Google Scholar. This is where databases really shine- as described in the video above, databases hire experts to assign subject headings to articles as they are added to the database. You will need to use these kinds of databases in order to use subject headings. You'll find that most of the resources on our Databases A-Z list have subject headings:
Every database has a different set-up for using subject headings. Sometimes the list of subject headings is called a thesaurus. Look for a link on your results page (hint: use ctrl+F to search for the words 'subject' and/or 'thesaurus'). View the videos on using subject headings in Ebsco and SPORTDiscus (an example of an Ebsco database) to learn about different ways to find subject headings.
Next, find a subject heading for your topic and compare that list of results with your keyword search. Are you finding different results? Subject headings can help to uncover search terms when you're having a hard time coming up with your own- what happens when you type in a subject heading as a keyword?
You may have noticed by now that you get a lot of overlap but also find some different results when you use keywords vs subject headings. Neither strategy is better than the other- you will want to use both to ensure that you are conducting a thorough search.
Next, we'll be looking at other advanced techniques for finding articles.