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SOWK 150: Introduction to Social Work

Introduction to the profession of social work and its historical development; overview of the knowledge, values, skills, practice settings and groups served by social workers.

Searching like a Fancy Person

Tips for finding subject headings

Option 1:

Start with a keyword search.

Browse your results until you find 2 or 3 relevant titles.

Look at the "subject" or "descriptor" assigned to the titles and re-do your search using the terms listed.


Option 2:

Look to see if the database has an online thesaurus to browse for subjects that match your topic. In many Ebsco databases there is a link at the top left that will say either "Thesaurus" or "Subject Terms".


Most databases have a defined set of subject headings. Many subject terms are common to all databases, but be aware that they may vary from database to database. For example, if you're researching the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1973, you'll notice at least 4 different subject headings used, depending on the database you're searching:

  • Israel-Arab War, 1973 
  • Yom Kippur War  
  • Arab-Israeli Conflict  
  • Israel-Arab Conflict, 1973

Keyword searches look for your terms anywhere in the record -- e.g., in the title, abstract, subject heading, or other notes. Keyword searches may be less precise or relevant than searches using prescribed subject terms.

Subject headings (sometimes known as descriptors) describe and tag the content of each item in a database. Use these headings to find relevant items on the same topic.