Search tips

Start by taking our introductory tutorial for library search. You can use advanced library search to find items based on the keywords you specify. This guide gives tips on how to structure your search terms and limit your search. For more information see our tutorial on how to create a search strategy.

Searchable fields

By default, a keyword search will search through these fields for each catalog item:

  • Authors/other authors
  • Titles/other titles
  • Subjects
  • Most note fields, such as contents, performers, summaries, production credits, geographic coverage, dissertation/thesis note, and reproduction information
  • Series
  • ISBNs and ISSNs
  • Call numbers
  • Publishers and place of publication

These fields are not searched:

  • Descriptions
  • Some generic note fields
  • URLs


You can add an asterisk * to the end of a word to search for all possible endings of that word. You must have at least two letters before the asterisk.

Searching for instruct* will show results for:

  • instruction
  • instructional
  • instructive

If your truncated search gives you a message of "no entries found," try adding more letters before the asterisk. This can happen when there are too many search results.


You can use ? as a wildcard to replace a single character in a word. The question mark must be preceded by at least three characters.

Searching for wom?n will show results for:

  • woman
  • women

Searching for multiple keywords

You can search for multiple keywords by connecting them with AND, OR, or AND NOT (known as Boolean operators).

Operator Action Example
AND Narrows a search by requiring that both keywords are found. A search for guggenheim AND bilbao would find both "Museo Guggenheim Bilbao" and "Guggenheim Museum Bilbao."
OR Broadens a search by looking for any of the words entered. Word order does not matter. A search for (k-6 OR primary) AND teaching will find records with either “k-6” and “teaching” or “primary” and “teaching.”
AND NOT Excludes words from search results. A search for cell AND NOT phone will find records with only the word "cell" and not include those with "phone."

Phrase searching

To search for an exact phrase, enclose it in quotes. This retrieves all records containing that phrase anywhere in the record, sorted by publication date (newest to oldest).

This is especially important if your phrase includes Boolean operators (AND, OR, AND NOT). For example, use quotes to find "To be or not to be."

Relevancy ranking

Searching keywords or phrases will return results based on relevancy in up to five groups, from “most relevant” to “other relevant,” depending on where the word or phrase appears in the record. Within each group, records are displayed by publication date (newest to oldest).

  • Most relevant: The search terms appear as a phrase in the main title of the item.
  • Highly relevant: The search terms appear as a phrase in a subtitle or other title information.
  • Very relevant: The search terms appear as a phrase in the contents, series notes, or subject headings.
  • Relevant: The search terms are combined with a Boolean AND. At least one of the terms is in the main title or subtitle.
  • Other relevant: The search terms are combined with a Boolean AND and may appear anywhere in the record.

You can deactivate relevancy ranking by changing some of the options on the advanced library search:

  • Select a specific field from the drop-down menu in which you want your words to appear (e.g. title). Results will display by publication date (newest to oldest).
  • Enclose words in quotes to ensure that only the exact phrase is retrieved. Results will display by publication date (newest to oldest).
  • Enter search terms in multiple search boxes. Results will display by publication date (newest to oldest).
  • Change the "Search and Sort" option to either "sorted by date" or "sorted by title."

Limiting searches

You may search a sub-collection and/or location using the advanced library search and selecting an option for "Search in" under Add Limits. You can search within:

  • online resources
  • all journals (print and online)
  • Law Library
  • Health Sciences Library
  • Health Sciences Library and the Science-Engineering Library
  • Fine Arts Library and the Center for Creative Photography (CCP)
  • Special Collections
  • Poetry Center

You also add limits for language, location, format, publisher, and year of publication. To find all materials that match a limit criteria, use an asterisk (*) by itself in the first search box, then choose one or more limit options.

Searching non-alphanumeric characters

You can search for the following characters:

@   "at sign"
$   dollar sign
%   percent sign
#   pound sign
&   ampersand (interchangeable with "and")

These punctuation characters are converted to a space in the search expression:

:    colon
.    period
_   underscore
\   backslash
=   equals sign
/   forward slash
;   semicolon
,   comma
^  caret
`  backtick