Subject Headings in Full-Text Environments: The ECCO Experiment

Jeffrey Garrett

Abstract

Bibliographic records regularly combine two incommensurable types of description: one that captures the physical and textual facts of a work, the other that seeks to encompass succinctly the work’s intellectual content. This article deals with the second type of bibliographic description: subject headings and their contribution to resource discovery. The article reports on an experiment at Northwestern University Library to add subject headings to online records for the Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO).The author assesses the benefits of this enhancement by using a representative research topic: a search for contemporary material on the East India Company (1600–1873). This article extends arguments recently presented by Gross and Taylor (2005) in two directions: first, by considering the importance of subject headings for access to historical materials; and, second, by examining the value added by subject headings even when the full text of a work is available online.

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