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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 498K: A Catastrophic Dependence or "More oil, ever more oil!"

Course guide to library resources on the history of petroleum use


Why Bother with Subject Headings?

Why bother with subject headings when one can do keyword searching in the Online Catalog?

It's true that you can find sources on a topic by doing keyword searches. But if you limit yourself to keyword searching, you are likely to miss important material on your topic that uses other terms. If you only need two or three books, you can probably find what you need by doing keyword searches, but if you are doing historical research, you can’t afford to miss critical material on your topic. For a comprehensive subject search, search with subject headings as well as keywords.

A good way to identify subject headings for a topic is to do a keyword search in the online catalog using terms you think describe the topic and try to identify a few relevant books. Look at the full record for those books to see what subject headings were used, then do another search on those headings.

As a rule of thumb, use fairly broad headings, as well as the specific ones that describe your topic, in order to make sure you haven't inadvertently eliminated relevant material that is contained within works of larger scope. Most likely you will find multiple headings to describe your topic, and you should use all of them. You can narrow your search in the online catalog by combining subject headings (as a phrase) with keywords, using the “Advanced Search” option.

Some Example Subject Headings

  • Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
  • Standard Oil Company
  • IUKOS (Firm)
  • Petroleum--Azerbaijan
  • Petroleum--Canada
  • Petroleum industry and trade--History.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Middle East.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Venezuela
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Africa
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Middle East--History.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Middle East--History--20th century.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Russia (Federation).
  • Petroleum industry and trade--United States.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--United States--History.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Illinois.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Illinois--Statistics.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Political aspects.
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Military aspects-History--20th century
  • World War, 1914-1918--Causes
  • World War, 1939-1945--Causes
  • World War, 1939-1945--Economic aspects
  • Oil spills--Environmental aspects
  • Oil pollution of the sea
  • Oil and gas leases--Mexico, Gulf of
  • Oil fields--Middle East--Maps
  • Petroleum in submerged lands
  • Energy policy--United Staets
  • United States--Foreign relations--Arab countries
  • Arab countries--Foreign relations
  • Russia (Federation)--Economic policy--1991-
  • Russia (Federation)--Foreign economic relations
  • Russia (Federation)--Politics and government--1991-
  • Russia (Federation)--Foreign relations--Former Soviet republics
  • Anglo-Iranian Oil dispute, 1951-1954
  • Iran--History
  • Iran--Politics and government--1941-1979
  • Iran--Economic conditions--1945-1979
  • Iran--Foreign relations--Great Britain
  • Iran--Foreign relatiions--United States
  • Nigeria--Economic conditions--1970-
  • Nigeria--Environmental conditions
  • Nigeria--Ethnic relations
  • Nigeria--History--1960-
  • Nigeria--History--Civil War, 1967-1970
  • Nigeria--Politics and government--1960-
  • Nigeria--Politics and government--1984-1993
  • Nigeria--Politics and government--1993-
  • Consumption (Economics)--United States
  • Consumption (Economics)--United States--History--20th century

Searching the Online Catalog

Catalogs offer both “Quick Search” and “Advanced Search” options. Use “Advanced Search” to identify subject headings on your topic, to combine subject headings (or elements from subject headings) in a Boolean search, or to combine keywords from any part of the record with subject headings to narrow your search.

Use “Quick Search” to browse a subject heading, to search a title when you know exactly how it begins, to locate a work or works by a particular author, or to search by call number for a specific book.

Digitized Book Collections