Browse Subjects

You can browse the list of the subjects covered in eHRAF by clicking on the Browse Subjects tab at the top of the eHRAF interface, or by expanding the sidebar menu by clicking on the menu hamburger button in the top left and then clicking the Subjects button in the sidebar.


All of the documents contained within eHRAF World Cultures have been indexed at the document and paragraph-level by HRAF anthropologists. Indexing at every paragraph of text is what makes the eHRAF databases ideal for comparative anthropological research and cross-cultural queries.

Browsing eHRAF by subject will help you become more familiar with the indexing system, which is based on the Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM), a vast thesaurus of indexes and categories. OCM identifiers are typically 3-digits long and there are more than 90 major categories containing more than 700 sub-categories.

How to Browse Subjects

Subjects are organized hierarchically, with many subjects functioning as broader categories for narrower subjects. There are two modes to view subjects organization in eHRAF:

  • A-Z Index: lists all subjects, where broader subject categories are listed alongside more narrow subjects in the same list

  • Major Subjects: lists subjects in their hierarchical organization, with broad categories only visible initially. You can then click on categories to see the narrower subjects that fall under that category. You can continue to view narrower subjects until you reach the most specific subjects.

The A-Z Index mode allows users to search for a specific subject using the search bar at the top of the page. Use the Search Subject Index bar to filter the list of subjects. Begin typing in the box to see suggested subjects.


Though the search text will still be visible if you switch to Major Subjects mode, searches will not change the listing of subjects in this mode. All subjects will remain visible in Major Subjects mode.

When in A-Z Index mode, use the controls at the top right of the subject list to sort or change the way the subject list appears on the screen.

View As

There are two possible ways to view the subject list in A-Z Index mode: list view or card view. List view is the default. The View As button allows you to switch between these two views. Both views display the same amount of information, so feel free to select the view that suits your needs.


In A-Z Index mode, you can sort the list of subjects alphabetically (written as A-Z in the interface), by OCM identifier, and by relevance to the search query. Relevance is the default, but if no search query is entered, all subjects will be listed alphabetically. You can also select whether to sort Ascending or Descending.

If you sort subjects alphabetically, you can click Browse By on the top left above the list. This will open a dropdown of each letter of the alphabet. Select a letter to only see subjects that start with that letter.

Use Fors

To aid in locating subjects, several additional concepts that are not OCM subjects are listed in A-Z Index mode that refer to an official OCM subject. For example, Academic Profession is not an OCM subject, but it refers to the preferred OCM subject Teachers.

By default, eHRAF only shows preferred subjects. Click the Use Fors toggle to show the non-preferred subjects in addition to the preferred terms. Note how the non-preferred subjects have additional text below the subject name, this is the preferred name for the subject. For example, Academic Profession has use - Teachers to show that Teachers is the preferred name. If you click on a non-preferred name, it will open an overview box that uses the preferred name.

This functions similarly to a paper index, where one might look up Academic Profession and see the text see Teachers to direct them to the preferred term. This is why this functionality is called Use For, because it tells the user to use Academic Profession for Teachers. The Library of Congress also uses the terminology Use For when constructing Library of Congress Subject Headings. For both the Library of Congress and eHRAF, Use Fors references are terms that are synonymous or related concepts that users might search for rather than the preferred term. The Use For reference directs users to the proper term.

Subject Overview

In either A-Z Index or Major Subjects mode, you can click on a subject name to expand a brief overview. In A-Z Index mode the overview will expand below the subject name, in Major Subjects mode the overview will appear in a sidebar on the right. The same information is displayed in both interfaces. This includes a brief description of the subject, any broader or narrower subjects, and related subjects if there are no narrower subjects. The overview in A-Z Index mode also includes a link to related documents. Click on Full Profile to access the full Subject Profile.

Subject Profile

There are two components of the subject profile: Subject Description and Related Documents.

Subject Description

Subject Descriptions provide a brief overview of the OCM categories used for indexing eHRAF. They typically contain the following subsections: Subject Description; Broader Subject; Narrow Subjects; and Related Subjects.

  • The Subject Description specifies the subject’s name and corresponding OCM category and provides a brief summary of what topics or information in eHRAF it refers to. It may also include notes added during indexing to indicate any changes or replacements in the category identifier since it has been in eHRAF.

  • Broader Subject will direct you to the parent topic above the selected subject in the overall OCM hierarchy of subject categories. Clicking on the broader subject label will launch a pop-up window with additional broader and narrower terms that will help you to situate your selected subject within the rest of the OCM.

  • Narrower Subjects will output a list of child subject categories in the OCM hierarchy contained under your chosen subject.

  • Related Subjects will direct you to additional subjects that might be useful for your search.