LCSH and Environmental Science

A Comparison of Subject Heading and Domain Analyses


  • Frances Purcell University of British Columbia
  • Julia Bullard The University of British Columbia



environmental science, environment, subject headings, Library of Congress Subject Headings, domain analysis, classification, controlled vocabulary


The environmental sciences are characterized by their boundless interdisciplinarity and cannot be discussed independently from other scientific fields such as ecology, engineering, and climatology. The complex nature of the discipline leads to challenges in placing it within a controlled vocabulary such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). However, the placement of a term within a thesaurus hierarchy has potential repercussions for the discoverability of materials assigned that subject heading. As the environmental sciences are rapidly expanding due to global climate change, accurate representation of this discipline within a widely used vocabulary is crucial. In this paper we employ a visual mind mapping technique to examine how the environmental sciences are represented by codified language within the LCSH, then complete a domain analysis of the field to determine how environmental science represents itself. In comparing these two analyses we determine that the LCSH subject headings do not capture the interdisciplinary nature of the field in two primary ways; the term Environmental sciences is not sufficiently connected to the terms representing other major scientific subjects essential for a foundational understanding of environmental science, and key forward-looking topics of concern to environmental scientists such as Climatology are not in direct relationships with Environmental sciences. Correcting these issues is an important task, as ensuring that researchers are able to access a full range of environmental science materials will aid in finding sustainable climate solutions for our planet.


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How to Cite

Purcell, F., & Bullard, J. (2023). LCSH and Environmental Science: A Comparison of Subject Heading and Domain Analyses. Nordic Journal of Library and Information Studies, 4(1), 17–33.