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The Subject Representation of Core Works in Women’s Studies: A Critical Analysis of the Library of Congress Subject Headings

Susan Wood
Major Professor: 
Bharat Mehra
May 2010

Abstract: The system of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) has been the subject of feminist, critical examinations since the 1970's. Subject headings pertaining both to feminist literature and to women in general have been analyzed to determine how LCSH represents these topics. In this study, I contribute to this body of scholarship by analyzing and reporting on the nature of the LCSH subject representation of 52 core works published from 1986-1998 in the areas of feminist theory and women's movements. These monographs were selected from the 3rd edition of Women's Studies: A Recomminded Bibliography  (Krikos and Ingold, 2004). The analysis of works of/on feminist theory and on women's movements is preceded by a pilot study of 24 core works on the topics of Communications, Fim, Television, Media, and Journalism.

I utilize the abstracts of these works in Krikos & Ingold (2004), as well as the works themselves, to establish the nature of each monograph's perspective and scope. To this information I compare the LC subject headings employed in the bibliographic records representing these works in the Library of Congress Online Catalog in order to assess the headings' usefulness as surrogate representations of these monographs in terms of accuracy, relevance, specificity, and currency.

I present my findings as sets of problems and solutions illustrated with specific examples. Overall, LCSH is not able to represent adequately the 24 works in the pilot study sample or the 52 core works in the main study based on its current application. I conclude with a proposed set of subject headings as suggested by the abstracts of these works.