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Michigan State University

MC 498: Civic Engagement and Community Development in Lansing (Jezierski): Books

Keyword Searches

You can search the library's collection of books, microfilm, and other materials using keywords (http://catalog.lib.msu.edu/search/X). Catalog searching is not like searching in Google, however. If you misspell a word, the catalog does not try to figure out what you meant or offer suggestions; instead it will come up showing no results found (and it does not show you what you typed in). You also want to pick your keywords carefully. Limit your keywords to the most relevant words and keep track of what words you've used in your search. You will need to play around with the words that you use, using synonyms, for example to try to locate appropriate material. 

Subject Searches

Subject searching allows researchers to find more precise items in the library's catalog by using specific words, in a specific order. These terms, called Subject Headings are used by library specialists when processing books. Subject searching can be a great way to find relevant material, but you have to be careful to use the exact subject and to keep in mind that books may have different subjects associated with them than the one you selected to search. 

You'll notice that while the subject headings used may be very similar, they pull up different results. For example in the list below, if you click on City planning -- Michigan -- Lansing, you get 189 results. But if you click on Lansing (Mich.) -- City Planning, you get 14 results. 

Since subject searching can be a bit tricky, I recommend you start out with a keyword search (or you can click on the example subject searches below) to find results. When you find a book that is on point with your topic, if you click the title of the book, you can see what subjects have been assigned to that title. Clicking on the various subjects shows you all of the books that have the same subject. If you find one good book, you can potentially find many just by clicking on the subject terms associated with that book.

catalog record showing subject headings that you can click for similar books

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