Subject - Keywords

Requirement Level: Recommended

Core Element: Yes

Describes: Original Source


A term or phrase that reflects the subject matter of the content, entered as free-text keywords. This element may be used for free-text keywords, tags, or local project-level category terms that may not draw from a formal controlled vocabulary. When using subject terms from a controlled vocabulary, use the Subject – Controlled element.


Digitized Emory University Document Religious Emphasis Week
Digitized Image Sports - Baseball
Audio/video politics, university, merle black, emory college, experts, people
Web page clinical trials, cancer research, campus

Mappings and Encoding

Dublin Core: 


See recommended mappings for additional standards.

How Do I Fill This In?



Recommended Data Entry Type:

Free-text entry

Recommended/default Values:

Keywords, tags, and project-level categories are an easy way to provide additional search points for your content, but it is recommended to use them in addition to (not as a replacement for) formal subject terms from a controlled vocabulary, such as those entered in the Subject - Controlled element. Note that some Emory systems and metadata standards require the use of keywords.

Additional detail:

For uncontrolled terms, multiple keywords or phrases may be entered within a single Subject – Keywords entry. If you are using controlled terms from a local vocabulary, it is recommended to record them in separate entries.

If you choose to store multiple keywords/keyphrases in a single entry which may be visible to end-users, be sure to use a consistent delimeter such as a comma or semicolon to separate them, e.g.:

arts and culture, events, libraries, atlanta, university

System Tips:

Some metadata standards (FGDC, ISO19115) and local Emory systems (Emory Theses and Dissertations) require a keyword or topic to be assigned.

Many web content management systems, such as Emory’s Cascade Server CMS and WordPress, provide options for adding keywords stored as <meta> tags within HTML documents. Emory's Google Search Appliance API can leverage <meta> tags within custom queries.


What if I’m unable to determine what the subject matter is?

In some situations it may not be possible to determine the exact subject matter of the content. This may occur if the content is in a foreign language not easily translated by the metadata creator, or for complex interpretive content like abstract art.


What is a controlled vocabulary? What is an authority?

Guideline last revised: 2017-11-17