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Michigan State University

MC 497: Adam Smith's Challenge: Self-Interst or the Common Good?

Professor Brianne Wolf | Spring 2021

Subject Searching using Library of Congress Subject Headings

The Library of Congress is the authority that controls the vocabulary of subject headings that academic libraries use to organize their collections.  Understanding and knowing subject headings can open up many resources that might not be found through keyword searching.

Subject heading examples:

  • Ethics
  • Ethics, Modern -- 18th century
  • Justice -- Psychological aspects.
  • Human rights
  • Capitalism -- Moral and ethical aspects
  • Smith, Adam, 1723-1790

The tricky part is that these subject headings are controlled, meaning that the Library of Congress (LOC) decides what they are and then libraries have to use them.  So it's helpful to know where to find these subject headings. 

  1. If you have a book title that is on the subject you're interested in, search for it in the catalog.  Subject headings will be listed in the book info page. Books can have several subject headings. 
  2. The Library of Congress also has a search feature to explore other subject headings: http://id.loc.gov/authorities/subjects.html

Subject Searching in the Catalog

Once you've got some subject headings, you can search using them in the library's catalog.  

  1. Click on Books & Media from the library homepage (lib.msu.edu)
  2. Select "subjects" on the right
  3. Paste in your subject

Now it's just a matter of exploring!

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Michigan State University