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ANTH 2430 - Languages of the World [F22]

Keywords vs. Subject Headings

Keywords are words and phrases that use natural language to describe the concepts you want to look for. When you search keywords in Google or Virgo you will get back items that use those words anywhere in the title, abstract, author, full-text, publisher information, and so on. Keyword searches are usually more broad than subject heading searches and retrieve more results. 

Subject Headings are more narrowly defined than keywords. When you search subject headings in Virgo or another database you will ONLY get back results that contain that exact subject heading. These are more strictly controlled to better describe the CONTENT of the item. 


  • Use keywords first to find appropriate subject headings for your topic.
  • There may be multiple subject headings that make sense. 
  • Combine subject headings and keywords for accuracy + flexibility. 
  • Select subheadings if there are too many results. 

Subject Headings in Virgo

You can find subject headings (subjects, places, people) in VIRGO on the left-hand side of the screen. Clicking on one will take you to a list of related materials that share that subject heading, which means they will deal specifically with the topic.


Some possible subject headings might be…


[Language] Language

[Language] -- Grammar

[Language] -- Grammar --  Handbooks, Manuals, etc.

Ethnology -- [Geographic Location]  

Ethnology -- [Geographic Location] -- [Sublocation]