Keyword Searching and Browsing in a Library Catalogue

When should I use keyword searching and when should I browse a library catalogue’s title, author and subject indexes?


I will use the University of Tsukuba’s library website (https://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/) in my examples.

If I am looking for a particular title by a particular author, it makes sense to start out with a keyword search of the title or the author’s name. For example, if I am looking for a copy of Natsume Soseki’s “I am a Cat”, I might do a keyword search for “I am a cat”. However, if I do a general keyword search (not limited to title) that result will bring up 18812 records because all four of these words are too short and too common. If I limit my search to the title field only, I will still get 8693 records. If I surround my search terms with quotation marks, I will finally narrow it down to one hit.

In this case, it might make more sense to do a keyword search for the author’s name, find a book by the author, and then access the author index through that record. For example, if I do a general keyword search for Natsume Soseki, I get 391 hits, some of which are books about Natsume Soseki and some are books by him. If I click on “Botchan”, one of the books by him, I can then click on Natsume Soseki’s name in the author index and come up with 16 hits, one of which is “I am a Cat”. I can also see all of the other books that the libraries has by this author, which is good information if I happen to be studying that author or interested in his works.

If I am performing a literature search on a particular topic where I am trying to retrieve all possible hits on the topic, it makes sense to use a hybrid search method. For example, if I were looking for information on international education in schools that have adopted the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Year Programme, I might start out with a keyword search on “International Baccalaureate”. That gives me two books and one periodical in the Tsukuba library. I can then click on one of the books and then check to see if the author has written any other relevant books through the author index, or click on the indexed subjects and see if there are any other relevant books on the same subject. I would then do a keyword search for “international education”, choose a relevant book or periodical, and then see if there are any subjects listed that could lead me to other relevant materials. For example, clicking on the book “Changing dimensions in international education” gives me a link to the subject “international education — addresses, essays, lectures” and clicking on that subject leads me to “A history of international and comparative education”.

In general, it is probably better to use both keyword searching and index browsing to come up with the results you need. If you are looking for a specific item, index browsing might get you there faster, whereas if you are trying to find the widest range of items on a particular topic, keyword searching might be the best method to use, at least to get you started.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.