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EXS290 Research Guide

This guide was created for students taking EXS290

What is Controlled Vocabulary?

Controlled vocabulary is a standardized, pre-defined set of terms used by a database to describe and categorize articles or sources of information based on content. Controlled vocabulary can also be referred to as Subjects, Subject Headings, Subject Terms, Descriptors, Thesaurus, or Index terms. The table on this page outlines the difference between using 'Controlled Vocabulary' and 'Keywords'.

Each database handles controlled vocabulary differently including the terminology.The following video explains the meaning and functionality of controlled vocabulary.

Controlled Vocabulary VS. Keywords

Controlled Vocabulary/Subject Terms Keywords
Pre-defined, higher order terminology Natural (conversational) language
Only searches the subject or descriptor field in a database record

Searches all fields in a database record including title, abstract, text, etc.

Results usually relevant to your topic Results may or may not be relevant to your topic
Narrows your search providing fewer results

Broadens your search providing more results

Less Flexible - searches only available, pre-defined subject headings Flexible - searches newer or distinctive terms and acronyms with no defined subject heading

Examples:

Canines

Skin Neoplasms

Hypertension

Insomnia

Examples:

Dogs

Skin Cancer

High Blood Pressure

Sleeplessness