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Finding Books

This guide aims to provide information about finding books at UBC Library, primarily using the Library catalogue.

Finding Books by Topic

If you do not have a particular title or author to search for, you can still find books relevant to your research by using keywords. Keywords are words or phrases used to describe content in the library, and you can use these as search terms to locate books in the catalogue.


In the “Books & Media” tab, enter keywords related to your research topic. Here a few tips to help you put together a keyword search:

  • Aim to use the same terminology that authors writing about your topic would be using.
  • If there are any phrases in your search, enclose the words in quotation marks.
  • If you are combining multiple concepts, you can use the word AND
  • If one of your concepts can be represented in more than one way, make note of as many synonyms as you can to try as you search. You can also combine synonyms with the word OR to search them at the same time.


For instance, if you were researching privacy issues related to social media, you could use the following keywords: “social media” OR “social networking” AND privacy


Once you have entered your keywords, click “Search.”





By default, your results will be listed according to relevance, with the most relevant books at the top. At this stage, you can also use the search filters along the left hand side to narrow the results by date, language, library location, or books available online.

Using Subject Headings

You can also find books related to your topic by making use of relevant subject headings, which is more precise and powerful than a keyword search.

Items in the Library catalogue have been assigned one or more subject headings, which are used to group together books on the same topic, regardless of the words in the books’ titles.


To search by subject heading, start by using keywords to find a book about your research topic. In the catalogue record for that book, you will see subject headings listed below the book’s location and availability. For the book below, titled Internet and Surveillance: The Challenges of Web 2.0 and Social Media, you will notice that one of the subjects is “Data protection” though none of those words appear in the book’s title. This is because subject headings capture the contents of the book (ie. what the book is about), which can be difficult to determine when only looking at the title.





When you click on one of the subject headings, you will find a link to more books with the same subject. In some cases, there will also be a list of related ("See also") or narrower terms, as is the case for the subject heading "Social Media."



Clicking one of these terms will lead to a results page with all of the books in the Library catalogue with that subject heading.