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Course & Subject Guides

Afro-Latinxs in the United States - Oakland Campus

Keywords vs Subjects


Subject Headings

Natural language words describing your topic. A good way to start your search.

Pre-defined "controlled vocabulary" words assigned to describe the content of each item in a database or catalog.

More flexible for searching.  You can combine terms in any number of ways.

Less flexible. You must know the exact controlled vocabulary term or phrase.

Database looks for keywords anywhere in the record (title, author, name subject headings,


Database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or descriptor field, where the most relevant words appear.

Often yields too many or too few results.

If a subject heading search yields too many results, you can often select subheadings to focus on one aspect of the broader subject.

Often yields many irrelevant results.  

Results are usually very relevant to the topic.

Subject Headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) has been actively maintained since 1898 to catalog materials held at the Library of Congress. By virtue of cooperative cataloging other libraries in the United States and other countries also use LCSH to provide subject access to their collections. It is not easy to guess which subject headings are used in a given database.

Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database. These headings help to find relevant items on the same topic. Searching by subject headings (a.k.a. descriptors) is the most precise way to search topics in databases.

Latinx, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Cubans, Afro-Dominicans, etc. are relatively new terms. Blacks—Latin America is the Subject Heading that the Library of Congress uses to categorize populations that different authors refer to in a variety of ways. Provided below are a few examples of how some authors refer to these populations.  Those interested in the Library of Congress Subject Headings, please contact Staci Ross (, Cataloging/Metadata Librarian at the ULS.