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Architectural Research: Concept Mapping

Concept Mapping

Start with Keywords

All research begins with the language that you use to think about your topic. This language provides keywords, or the natural language you use to describe your research topic. Start your search by developing a simple concept map of your topic using keywords to begin your search for books, DVDs, and other material in the OSU Library catalog. Remember, you can search the Library catalog from home 24/7.

Here is a sample keyword concept map to begin research on Italian Renaissance portraits:

Concept of place or time Concept of material/technique Concept of subject
16th century portraits nobility
Renaissance oil painting peasants
Italian   patronage


Subject Headings


A subject heading is a descriptive phrase librarians assign to an item to describe its contents or subject. Finding the subject heading that leads to the information you need can be one of the most difficult aspects of doing library research. The keywords you use to describe your topic may not be the same words or in the same order as the subject headings used in the online catalog. If you were looking for a book on German painters, you could search for keywords German painting or use the subject heading, “Painting--German”

Although they are complicated, subject headings are really useful. Always start your search by using keywords of concepts as described in the example of Italian Renaissance portraits. From the catalog results list, find an item of interest and click on the full record to see the subject headings assigned to that item. Click on the relevant subject heading to retrieve more items in the same category. Be sure to keep track of particular phrases that narrow or broaden your results.