Skip to Main Content

Insider's Guide to the CCA Libraries: Best Search Strategies

Selecting Key Terms

Once you have determined your research question, you already have a formula to select the keywords that will guide your research. When reading your research question, ask yourself: what are the main concepts, or topics expressed through my question? What topics, or concepts will I need to learn about in order to answer my question? 


Boolean Searching: and, or, & not

Navigating Library Subject Headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Books, videos, and other materials in library catalogs are assigned official subject headings by the Library of Congress. These subject headings describe an item's content and are useful for focusing research on broader, narrower, or related topics. Look for subject heading links in the library catalog to find more items on the same topic.

For example, the book Drought and global warming: impacts on selected California resources   has the following LC Subject Headings to describe it:


Subdivisions, or subheadings, are words or phrases connected to the main subject, which may be added to a subject heading to create a more effective search:

Climatic changes -- California.

Climate changes” is a broad subject, but when the subheading “California” is added, this LC Subject Heading will only be applied to materials that discuss climate changes in the state of California. Clicking on the subject heading Climatic changes -- California. will link you to materials with a narrower focus than the subject heading Global warming, which will link to any material that relates to global warming generally.

Ask a librarian...


What if I need more information or assistance?
  • Use the contact form to reach a staff member
  • Call SF (415.703.9574) or Oakland (510.594.3658)
  • Come to the libraries and visit with a librarian in-person!

Whenever you have questions about library resources, or need a little help with your research endeavors, the CCA library staff is here for you! 

Chat with a Librarian

Chat with a Librarian

chat loading...

The Information TIMELINE


For more discussion about the Information Life-cycle, check out the Information Literacy video tutorial on!