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Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) complement the Library of Congress Classification, a system of grouping books with similar topics. Subject headings are those words assigned to books that describe what the book is about. You can use the Library of Congress Subject Headings to help choose appropriate words or subject headings to search in WorldCat UMD, and electronic databases.

Suppose that you are writing a paper about sports. Look up "sports" in the Library of Congress Subject Headings books, located by any UM library information desk. You will see this:

Sports (May Subd Geog)


Field sports

BT Recreation

Outdoor life
Physical education and training

SA subdivision

Sports under military services, e.g., United States. Army --Sports; and under ethnic groups


Aeronautical sports
Age and sports
Aquatic sports
Ball games


What it means:

  • "May Subd Geog" (next to the word "Sports") stands for "may be subdivided geographically." In other words, it might be possible to search specifically for aquatic sports in California, for example. This subject search could be done in the Catalog by keying in the terms "aquatic sports California."

  • UF stands for "Used For." This means that the subject heading "sports" is used to find information on "field sports," "past times," and "recreations" as well as "sports."

  • BT stands for "Broader Terms." In the example above, "BT Recreation" signifies that the term "recreation" can be used in a subject search if the term "sports" is too specific for your needs. The broader term "recreation" is moregeneralthan the term "sports."

  • RT stands for "Related Terms." These terms are neither broader or narrower than the term "sports," but may be used to find more material related to sports.

  • SA stands for "See Also." This reference gives hints for finding information related to your topic within other subject headings.

  • NT stands for "Narrower Terms." These are subject search terms that can be used to find material on more specific topics, or sub-topics of the subject "sports."

  • Other terms can be tagged on to the subject headings to narrow your subject search. These terms are preceded by dashed lines (--) in LCSH. For example, under sports some of the subtopics provided are "--Accidents," "--Economic aspects," and "--Rules."