Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Search Challenge (10/1/14): YOU make up the challenge!

As you can tell, I'm still catching up.  I've got a queue of about 4 posts I still need to make to get back up to real-time, so I'm going to start by posting an unusual Search Challenge for today.  

The Challenge today is for YOU to create a Challenge of your own!  It's a Reverse-Challenge day.  

Let me scope out the Challenge.  

First, I'd like to tell you something about how to search in Google Books that you probably don't know.  

Then, after you've got that, you get to explore a bit and then post a Challenge of your own into the comments. 

On Friday, I'll talk about what happened, and what we found out collectively.  Ready?  

1.  How to Search Google Books Search by Subject Heading 

One of the nicest (and least known) of all the features in Google Books is "Search by Subject Heading."  That is, you can use a subject heading string (found in either the Library of Congress (LC) Subject Headings list, OR the BISAC subject headings) 

For example, if you go to Google Books and do the query: 

The quoted phrase "Word War, 1939-1945" is the official subject heading name of that war.  

The big advantages of doing a search like this is that you can use pretty common terms (say, "armor") and get search results back in the context of that subject heading.  If you just go to Google Books and search for [ armor ], you'll get back a lot of results, few of which have anything to do with World War II.  But by contrast, this is what you get back from this search--targeted, relevant, focused results:  

You could do the same thing and use the the BISAC subject heading:

See the difference? The results are more-or-less the same, but both subject catalogs have slightly different ways of representing the world.  (More on this in a later post.) 

How do you get to the subject headings listing?  Well, telling you to search would be too obvious, so let me give you the links and save you one search: 

     Library of Congress Subject Headings search interface

     BISAC Subject Headings browse interface 

They're very different interfaces.  Here they are side-by-side: 

As you can see, the LC subject headings page has a search interface, while the BISAC (which is run by the BISG) has more of a click-to-browse style.  Both are useful; it depends on if you need any prompting as you do your search for a subject heading.  

Once you've found your subject heading entry, you just copy it out (see the text highlighted in blue below?  that's what you copy), and then paste into the quotes after the subject: keyword as shown above. 

Then, the query [ armor ] makes a LOT more sense when the scope of books being searched are those tagged with the LC subject heading "World War, 1939-1945"  (which is a phrase for WW2 that you'd never guess).  

With me so far?  

Now for today's Challenge:  

2.  Can you create a Search Challenge that highlights the use of the  subject: operator in Google Books? 

That is, you get to be me! 

Ideally, you'll write a Challenge that requires the use of a search in Google Books that needs the subject: + subject-heading method to be solvable.  

Once you've written your Challenge, post it to the comments below, and let's see if we can figure out what really interesting kinds of subject-headings (and their uses) we can discover. 

Sample Challenge:  "For today's Search Challenge, can you find a book about insects that feed on other insects and can cause sterility?" 
Sample Answer:  Using LC, I searched for "parasite insect" and learned that there is a subject heading called "Insects--Parasites" (the double dashes are important!).  Searching Google Books with 
     [ subject:"Insects--Parasites" sterility ] 
led me to a few books, one of which is Parasites in Social Insectsby Paul Schmid-Hempel, 1998. (Check out the cover for an astonishing photo.) In this book the author notes that some wasp species in Europe are parasitized by a variety of nematode that causes "parasitic castration" leading to infertility. (And be sure to search in the book for the phrase "brain worm," and learn something amazing about certain ant parasites that cause huge changes in ant behavior.)  

You, of course, should pursue your own interests and discover what wonderful things you can find in Google Books by using this new search method.  

Be sure to tell us how to solved your Challenge, and tell us of any interesting discoveries you made along the way.  

Search (and create Challenges) on!  


  1. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers

    Thanks for doing this new Challenge and for teaching us this new tool: "Search by Subject Heading."

    I have to say that I didn't know also about Subject Heading nor that there is a site to find them.

    [define subject heading]

    Now that I learned with you. I am ready to find fantastic new knowledge.

    Thanks Dr. Russell.

    1. I was practicing and looking just for fun before doing my SearchResearch Challenge

      I tried with Cocker Spaniel

      In the Bisac link with: subject:"PETS / Dogs / General" subject:"PETS / Dogs / Breeds" and subject:"PETS / Dogs / Training". Also, with subject:"PETS / Essays & Narratives" I have found many great information.

      I found that Bisac helps more when you don't have a very clear idea of what is the "key" word that you are looking for.

      I found great "Subject Heading" about gardening.

      Then, I wanted to learn more about a topic that Ricardo Blanco posted some days ago:Trophic cascades. The video talks about Wolves in Yellowstone.Any suggestions about what subject heading shoul I try?

      In the Library of Congresss: Trophic gives me "Top Predators." In the Bisac, don't know where to look (maybe Geography?) or if try with "If your title does not have subject content, i.e. a blank book, please use the Non-Classifiable term below. Otherwise, use the Subject/General term in the closest descriptive area. NON000000 NON-CLASSIFIABLE"

      [Mexico subject:"Top predators"]

      I'll be practicing and finding more information and then make my final post.

    2. Ramón - Your topic of wolves is interesting. I used [yellowstone national park subject:wolves] based on subject heading of wolves at LoC. The reason I find this interesting is because I know several wolves were exported from Canada to the USA to try and repopulate the wolf. I don't recall where this occurred but the first search results do show books on the restoration/reintroduction of the gray wolf in the park. I have wondered how these wolves managed. There wass some opposition to the idea which may have been from ranchers that feared the wolves killing cattle. Just a little tidbit. Ranchers here can place cattle on crown land (public use generally) which near me is in the foothills and nearby mountains. So when I go riding in those areas I may come upon a herd of cattle freely roaming on the highway or the open countryside. They slow down vehicular traffic but aren't a concern to cyclists. They are exposed to wildlife such as bears, wolves and cougars but I haven't heard of any issues.

    3. And to add further to the topic of the wolves in Yellowstone here is a shared link to an interesting article about Canadian wolves being sent to the park. Thanks for the link to the video. Good video!

    4. Rosemary - a little howl from your south…
      watch your six; e.g.,near where Dan roams, early last month… rare, but the food chain exists.
      mountain lion

    5. Hello Dr. Russell, Rosemary and Remmij

      Thanks for your comments and links. About trophic cascades, Yonatan Zunger also posted the video.There are great comments . One that I liked a post in which she recommends this Tedx video I haven't seen it, but for what she says is very interesting-

      In this topic, yesterday I hear in the news about Wolves in Verona. It is very sad that the wolves are not protected and placed on sites were they can be free. Verona Wolves

      On other topic, and remembering
      Answer: Where can you find this in the street? This bicycle is very interesting
      Reuleaux Wheeled Bicycle

      Nice day!

  2. Looking at national news headlines I recalled a question I had about emigration from Hong Kong after the takeback of Hong Kong by China in 1997. I got to know a lady that moved to my area at 70 years of age due to the takeback. I want to know more about this significant event & perhaps understand better how todays events are related. My challenge is to find out about emigration from Hong Kong in the late 1990s.

    Using Library of Congress [subject heading]

    China emigration > China--Emigration and immigration--History> (I wasn’t able to zero in on Hong Kong - too specific).

    Book Results -

    1)Reluctant Exiles?: Migration from Hong Kong and the New Overseas Chinese -

    This book has a section on emigration to Canada that I thought would be interesting to explore.

    2) The Other Hong Kong Report 1994 This particular book is part of a series that appears to be published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. If I was doing more indepth research I would likely expand my search here.

    Once I understood the concept of using subject headings I tried Library of Congress & BISG. I also did a regular book search using the general term [hong kong emigration] to see how the results would differ. The results were quite similar so time to review.

    Now I decided to review Dr. Dan’s example & discovered I missed an important step. I wanted to zero in on Hong Kong but using [China--Emigration and immigration--History] didn’t zero in as I wanted. But I had overlooked adding before this term [hong kong subject:] now I get much better results.

    3) Hong Kong Movers and Stayers

    This is exactly what I was looking for, giving emigration a face on the emigration during that time. The authors come from an academic background and is published by the University of Illinois.

  3. My search Challenge is about food and Moon.

    Can we find a book in which mentions how Moon phases affects plants growing and life?

    Searched [Food Growing] subject heading in both Library of Congress and BISAC. There found many possible subject heading:

    Subject Headings for example: "Human beings--Effect of the moon on", "Weather--Effect of the moon on", "Natural Foods" and "GARDENING / Climatic / General"

    Searching Google Books:

    [Moon subject:"natural foods"]
    [Moon subject:GARDENING / Climatic / General]

    In the possible results also found that Lima Beans gain their botanical name from the Greek word Phases: Aspect. And, Lunatus, from Latin Luna (Moon). So their name is Moon appearance.

    The Biodynamic Food and Cookbook: Real Nutrition That Doesn't Cost the Earth by Wendy E. Cook.

    She mentions about Maria Thun and biodynamics in the influence of the Moon. She talks about how Moon phases changes how plants saps flow to allow growing full of vitality or to anchor. Also mentions a biodynamic planting calendar.

    [Maria Thun Biodynamic calendar] on regular Google Search. Later I did this search on Images.

    Fifty years of planting by the moon - Eminent Researcher Dies

    12 Ways to Learn More About Biodynamics

    Calendar example Site also provides link to another site.

    [Maria Thun] Provides information and photos about the work made by Maria.

    [Maria Thun] in Google Books

    The Biodynamic Year: Increasing Yield, Quality and Flavour: 100 Helpful Tips By Maria Thun

    There is a lot to learn from this challenge that Dr. Russell made and also with the results I got. I am not so good creating questions and challenges like Dr. Russell does. I am sure that your Sample Challenge could not be create by me. Do you have any tips to think questions like those, Dr. Russell?

    I have been finding new information and topics while practicing. For example: Seasons, dogs, Moon Phases. This is a fantastic and easy way to learn more and to connect data with books.

  4. I was interested in contemporary accounts of the zeppelin bombings of London in WW1.

    LOC immediately provided this term "World War, 1914-1918" And several variants

    BISAC does not seem to know about WW1

    So my books query is: zeppelin subject:"World War, 1914-1918"

    I find a couple dozen likely suspects but of course I am not allowed to look at any.

    Regular search [zeppelin] finds too many hits about some singing group or something.

    This is a great trick to know


    jon tU

    1. interesting topic jTu… for contemporaneous accounts on something like this I tried newspapers and forums rather than books…
      would be curious if your results mirrored any of these… a sampling.
      It just seems to me that an operator like Dan is describing would be too limiting in an initial query and would be more suited to specific research on
      a defined known topic rather than when doing broader, investigative searches? a case of finding the right tool for the search & switching tools as topics
      are refined. The Goldilocks quandary: the right amount of search/results for the information level desired/required. Not too much or too little, but enough to make the bears irate.

      British newspaper archieve

      contemporary raid accounts

      NOVA transcript



      see comments

      Murder by Zepplin! video

      map from video

      Imperial War Museum

      L 13 route

      Anne Frank timeline

      zeppelin list

      search terms

      London remembers

    2. I was only looking in books per the Challenge. Your leads will be useful now that Challenge Day has closed. j tU

    3. apologies, I'm not a big follower of sRs protocols… there are many ways to skin… I mean, search a cat… even under DrD's tutelage.
      your find of [] was terrific! (and sans the ""subject" books operator ;))
      and resulted in this bit of Zeppelin related audio account from the IWM/BBC Century project - a great, ongoing effort - through 2018, cheers:

      Zeppelin (L48) shoot down
      a whole Z-raids section
      also of interest - British airships
      and this: Cannock Chase
      CC site

    4. …regarding a cat example, you have to love/curse the interwob:
      KC, 37M& going strong

      Bast, I think she invented the internet & the google thingy
      or Bastet…

      searching, searching… small tweaks, large range… how does it all work?
      LoC subject cat
      Foods of the Maya?

      (side subject - Ramón, you might check this? (2 links) Sears Subject Headings

      how to…yada… or meow;))

  5. Second question:

    My dad's mother was involved in some way with Belgian refugees in Britain in The Great War. She had a small box of trinkets and ribbons that were given to her by Belgians.

    So, wanting to know more I again used the LOC phrase and then asked Books about it.

    Belgian refugees subject:"world war, 1914-1918"

    Lots written none readable.

    However the same phrase bunged into Search found a brillant article

    How 250,000 Belgium refugees didn't leave a trace.

    jon tU

  6. Just a few days ago I was looking for theater plays depicting characters with some form of paralysis or immobility and theater plays depicting characters with some form of dementia.

    Through "normal" search strings like [ theater plays with character in wheelchair] and others I had found, without much trouble, two amazing plays by Samuel Beckett I already knew (Endgame and Happy Days) plus a third one, Play. I also found John Belluso's The Rules of Charity, David Freeman's Creeps and a couple of Susan Nussbaum's plays,Staring Back and Activities of Daily Living.

    Except for the Beckett ones, these are mainly about disabilities that make someone extradependent on others.

    With the (also verbose, I know) search string [ theater plays with character with dementia | alzheimer's ], I had found Maria Jastrzębska's Dementia Diaries, Sharr White's The Other Place and Bruce Graham's The Outgoing Tide.

    It was with enormous pleasure I read this challenge.

    The relevant subjects are:
    On BISAC, "Drama", "Alzheimer's & Dementia", "Musculoskeletal"
    On LOC, "Drama", "Dementia", "Paralysis"

    I am not sure how to use BISAC's subjects. I would guess that, for the line
    HEA039100 HEALTH & FITNESS / Diseases / Musculoskeletal
    [ subject:musculoskeletal ] should be the search, but I am not sure.

    Both [ subject:drama subject:paralysis ] and [ subject:drama subject:musculoskeletal ] produce no results.

    [ subject:drama subject:dementia ] gives only three books, none of which was in my list. The first two are relevant: Horton Foote's The Roads to Home and a collection of plays titled The MemoryCare Plays.

    In the end, I got two extra books and confused. (And this is called a syllepsis, admittedly of much inferior quality of those used in Have Some Madeira M’Dear.)

    1. That wonderful song brings back memories. We chugged a fair bit of it in our courting days thanks to Flanders & Swann. j tU

  7. Anne's father was a translator during the Second World War. He was an American who had studied Japanese at Stanford. Anne was curious as to how unique this job may have been.How many people had this job and what were their backgrounds?
    We used the Library of Congress subject heading of "World War, 1939-1945" and then searched using the query - foreign language translators japanese subject:"World War, 1939-1945" - the first result was a book called "Deciphering the Rising Sun: Navy and Marine Corps Codebreakers, Translators ..." This has led to much more curiosity about the topic. I asked Anne if her Dad worked with the Navajo Codebreakers and she wasn't sure. We didn't know you could use LOC subject headings (What no SEARS subject headings??? - these are the subject headings most school librarians use) in google books. Something else for us to share! Thanks for this challenge.

    1. Very interesting topics in this challenge and the links and information is great too.

      It is also interesting that Jon tU, can not see any book. In my case many only have a small preview, but there are many we can see. It is the same as in the SearchResearch Challenge where we needed to find something in a book and we found it is due to copyright. I thought Canada could have more open books then Mexico or Latin America.

      Remmij, the Goldilocks quandary, is a great learning, thanks.

      Debbie, what is SEARS?

    2. I checked out SEARS subject headings

      Note it mentions "massive open online courses" being added as a category.

      Some interesting topics mentioned by the group.

      Ramón it also mentions this [Hispanic headings and subdivisions have been updated in favor of Latino terms]. Not exactly sure what this means.

    3. Thanks Rosemary. About Hispanic and Latino terms. I think it is due that Hispanic only refers to those who speak Spanish and Latino is broader term; for example, Brazil.

      About SEARS, I only knew about the store and it is clear that is not what Debbie is talking about.

      [sears around(3) subject headings]

      Sears List of Subject Headings - Frequently Asked Questions "...The Sears List of Subject Headings is a thesaurus-like database delivering a core list of headings, together with patterns and examples to guide the cataloger in creating further headings as needed..."

      Minnie Earl Sears, Wikipedia "She formulated the Sears Subject Headings, a simplification of the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

    4. Ramón & Rosemary —
      esto se está convirtiendo en un amplio tema / objeto ... Isso está se tornando um tema / assunto amplo ... cool!
      you say tomato, I say tomatillo
      the Fed take
      interesting, I did not know that
      Guyana & Suriname are excluded…por qué? una búsqueda para otro momento
      the Goo take: (I'd be curious about Luís's view - for Portugal & Spain?)

  8. How BISAC affects book sales-

    You know it's an interesting subject when other websites appear to be waiting for the answer to this challenge.

    Resource List might come in handy

  9. Ramon sorry I didn't see this until now. Sears is a list of subject headings used by many school librarians. Very similar to Library of Congress but a little more condensed and more student friendly. Rosemary thank you for jumping in there!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. My attempt at making one didn't end well. The day this challenge came out I had just finished listening to "The Horror Movie Aphrodisiac" on Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast. Toward the end they spoke about the way the Splendid Fairywren puts it's mating call right after the predator Butcher Bird's call attracting a female when it is most alert. I went to the Library of Congress Subject Headings search interface and worked through finding subject headings for bird calls and then tried them with different terms in Google Books, but turned up nothing. I also tried using BISAC Subject Headings browse interface, but that proved difficult to drill down through all of the sub-headings.

    I went back to Google Book Search and wondered if there had been any books written that contained information about the Splendid Fairy Wren and the Butcher Bird. I also thought I might be able to construct the challenge from the back end. Finding the book, then identifying subject heading. Doing a search such as [ splendid fairy wren "butcher bird" mating call ] only seemed to turn up one book that mentions the relationship between these two birds. Other books mention the two birds, but they are field guide books and both birds are in Australia so I had to use other terms get the link I was looking for.

    The book I found was "Adaptive Rhetoric: Evolution, Culture, and the Art of Persuasion" By Alex C. Parrish While it states the Splendid Fairy Wren imitates the Butcher Bird and not the way I had heard it was close enough. When I click About this book I knew based on the subject heading that probably could not use this for my challenge. The book falls into  Language Arts Disciplines.

    A few quick attempts with a couple other topics didn't get far before time ran out. What I did learn was, to find what subject header a book is categorized is under About this book. Not a total loss. :-)

    1. Fred, do you think any of these queries could be helpful?

      ["Splendid Fairy Wren" subject:"NATURE / Animals / Birds" intext:mating calls]

      ["Splendid Fairy Wren" subject:"NATURE / Animals / Birds" ]

      ["butcher bird" subject:"NATURE / Animals / Birds"]

      ["butcher bird" mating call subject:"NATURE / Animals / Birds"]

      Dr. Russell, I was wondering. Do you recommend we add more words in the searches when using subject:".." like I did in some of the above queries? Narrowing the search with intext:"...". Could be a good way to use this tool?

      Remmij Hello Kitty is not a cat.

    2. Ramón, your first one nailed it. Great job!

    3. Ramón... those are superb queries. Thanks for sending them our way.

      WRT adding more words--it depends. The warning about adding too many words still holds, but the quoted phrase (as long as you know it's correct) is a good move.

      Note that your intext:mating calls ONLY requires the word "mating" to be in the text. The second term, "calls," can still be left out.

    4. Thanks Fred and Dr. Russell. Glad that they were helpful.

      Thanks, Dr. Russell for your guidance about intext and about too many words. I really appreciate the help, comments, examples and tools that you always provide in both the answer and in our comments; that make us better SearchResearchers.

      Great week!

    5. Ramón - impressive multi-tasking/query formation - my virtual reality is shattered with the Kitty update…
      …which is more effective - intext:mating calls or intext:mating? odd reading that out loud…

      doesn't Ramón like Ms. White and her twin? ;-)

      great, next I'll find out her name is really K. White and her twin sis is named Mimmy and they were born Nov. 1 &
      they are about to turn 40 in London… hope that Charmmy doesn't turn out to be an undercover Butcher bird and that Google is really Baidu

      list kitty
      for Fred
      will get the cats attention & now I know more about avian furgling than necessary…
      courtesy of Steve Parish

      sidenote: something for the Kongers to remember:
      outside the ☐
      not to be confused with the Kongos
      feelin' a bit like the USS Guardian, aground on a reef…
      reef wins

    6. Thanks Remmij> Ms. White and her twin looks great. Thanks too for the text :)

      I really like the phrase that is in one of your posts: "f you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ― Michael Crichton"

      I think more effective is Intext:mating, like Dr. Russell commented. Also I thing that intext:"Mating calls" could be useful.

      ["Splendid Fairy Wren" subject:"NATURE / Animals / Birds" intext:"mating calls"] in normal Google Search gives interesting results.

      I am looking forward for tomorrow SearchResearch Challenge