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Doing Research at the Library of Congress

IIB. The Four Ways to Find Proper Subject Headings

a. Follow cross references

The first way is to follow the cross-reference structure given in the LCSH list. For example, under the heading Dreams the following will appear:
Dreams (May Subd Geog)
[BF1074-BF1099 (Parapsychology)]
[QP426 (Physiology)]
[RC499.D7 (Hypnosis)]
UF Dreaming
BT Subconsciousness
Visions
RT Sleep
NT Children in dreams
Children’s dreams
Death in dreams
Family in dreams
Fantasy
Fortune-telling by dreams
Language and languages in dreams
Language disorders in dreams
Lucid dreams
Men’s dreams
Monsters in dreams
Nightmares
Sex in dreams
Vampires in dreams
Water in dreams
Women’s dreams
Religious aspects
– – Buddhism, [Christianity, etc.]

The notation “(May Subd Geog)” immediately after the heading is an indication that it may be subdivided by geographical areas (e.g., Dreams--Australia). The next three lines indicate that various aspects of the topic will be assigned numbers in different areas of the Library of Congress Classification Scheme. A column of cross-references follows.

These references are preceded by two-letter code designations, which are important:
UF = Used For. In this case, the code means that the bold-face heading Dreams, above, is Used For “Dreaming”;
in other words, do not use “Dreaming”—it is not a valid heading. UF means“ don’t use” the terms following it.
BT = Broader term(s)
RT = Related term(s)
NT = Narrower term(s)

The BT, RT, and NT headings are all acceptable terms in the LCSH system. They are not, however, subdivisions or subsets of the term under which they appear. Rather, they are entirely separate headings that must be searched directly in the catalog. Thus, material under the NT term Nightmares appears only under that specific term, and not under Dreams.

The final lines, preceded by dashes, are subdivisions of Dreams; thus these headings are valid forms:

Dreams--Religious aspects
Dreams--Religious aspects--Buddhism
Dreams--Religious aspects--Christianity
Dreams--Religious aspects--Islam
Dreams--Religious aspects--Judaism

By far the most important cross-references are the NT or Narrower Term headings. Because of the principle of Specific Entry, it is necessary to search under the tightest-fit headings for whatever topic you have in mind, and the NT headings under a more general term are a very good place to look for them.

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  September 13, 2011
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