General guidelines for using Subjects when cataloguing information collections
Subjects are terms used to help researchers locate information in a collection. Some databases call this field Keywords while Key Associations was used in earlier versions of the Museums Data Structure.
Databases can be set up allowing the creation of a field (Broad Search) where multiple fields from the database can be searched at once. This can be a useful way to locate information. However a search in such a field can produce a large number of records which need to be sifted through to locate relevant items. A selection of the items will often be false hits.
Using the Subject field allows researchers to undertake a structured search.
In computer databases terms can often be combined using Boolean search logic providing additional search possibilities. This needs to be kept in mind when selecting subject terms. There is therefore no need to add qualifiers to terms in computer databases - instead use specific terms that can be combined in a search if required.
Subjects can be names of people, places, organisations, buildings, objects and concepts.
A thesaurus should be used to ensure consistency in the use of terms for objects and concepts.
Victorian Local History Thesaurus is available online in the Local History Online section of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria website. Copies on cd-rom are available for purchase from the RHSV for $10.
Another online thesaurus is the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus.
A thesaurus provides a list of preferred terms to be used as subjects. Terms not to be used refer the user to the preferred term. Broader terms, narrower terms and related terms can also be provided.
See Subjects (2) for additional information on using terms for Subjects.
For consistency Authority Files should be used for names of people, organisations and places.
An Authority File for People is an alphabetical list of the form of the person's name to be used in the database.
See Subjects (3) for additional information on using names of people as terms in the Subjects field.
Determine the style to be used for the terms. Do not use block letters. Sentence case should be used unless the term is the name of a person, organisation or place when capital letters are used at the beginning of each word in the term.
Avenues of honour
Lysterfield Avenue of Honour
Do not use apostrophes in the Subject field. Using apostrophes in other database fields such as Title or Brief Description is fine but using apostrophes in Subject terms can lead to inconsistency.
See Subjects (4) for additional information on using names of organisations and places as terms in the Subjects field.