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HIS 1357 World War II

Subject Headings vs. Keywords; Library of Congress Subject Headings vs. the Database Thesauri

Subject headings (sometimes called Descriptors) are like tags for photographs; they briefly describe what a book or article is about, thus gathering disparately worded titles together under official terms.  Some databases (i.e. periodical indices) create and enforce the use of their own (given in what a database sometimes (but not always) calls its Thesaurus), while others use those created by the Library of Congress for book catalogs (SPU + Summit, Libraries Worldwide, the Harvard catalog HOLLIS, etc.).  For those created by the latter, see (and learn to use) Library of Congress Subject Headings.

For this class, the official Library of Congress Subject Heading "World War, 1939-1945" ("1939-1945", or even just 193? AND 194?, can be be used in the Subject field as well) will be helpful in finding material about the Second World War in both 1) book catalogs and 2) those databases that tend to use Library of Congress Subject Headings (or modified forms thereof) rather than their own.

An example of a database that does not use Library of Congress Subject Headings, but rather its own Subject Term under Indexes (rather than Thesaurus, as stated above), would be, not insignificantly for this course, the SPU database Historical Abstracts, which employs "World War II" instead, such that "World War, 1939-1945" (the official Library of Congress Subject Heading) returned but 64 peer-reviewed hits when placed in its Subject field on 10 January 2023, by comparison with "World War II" (the official Historical Abstracts Subject Term), which returned 30,038.  (The unofficial Keyphrase "Second World War" returned 1,692 in its Title field, to 1,173 (or nearly 70%) of which it had by that point assigned also its own official Subject Term of "World War II".)

Other useful terms that are often in Subject headings (and can, of course, be used in Keyword and Title fields as well) are location names ("Great Britain", Germany).  Topical Keywords and -phrases like "home front" or "Third Reich", and Keywords and -phrases that describe genres of writing like memoir, autobiography, or "personal narratives" can also be useful.  For many, many more suggestions along that last line, almost all of them also official Library of Congress Genre/From Terms, Subject Headings, and Free-Floating Subdivisions, see the Perisho handout entitled Identifying Published Primary Sources, below.  Try using some combination of these with the "1939-1945" Subject Heading to get a more focused results list.

Needless to say, a thorough search will probe both, i.e. Keyword and Title fields as well as Subject fields.  The point here is that only official Subject headings, whether those of the Library of Congress in some cases, or those of a given database in others, will work well in (the also very valuable) Subject fields of book catalogs and databases (periodical indices) both.

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Searching by Countries

Academic Search Complete and Research Library Complete allow you to search for particular countries or locations. Both databases have dropdown menus to the right of their search boxes, and these menus have an option for Country or Location. Click on the dropdown and select Location (you may need to scroll down) after you put your country or city name in the search box.

Where is the Full Text?

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