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WorldCat How-to: Advanced Search

Worldcat@SU is Southwestern's Smith Library Center catalog. You can search for items in our collection as well as materials in thousands of other libraries.

Advanced Search

The terms you use to search will make or break your search.  When deciding what terms to use, ask yourself:

  • Are there multiple aspects of my topic that I should make sure to include in my search? (e.g. "marijuana AND legalization" rather than simply just "marijuana")
  • Do my keywords have any synonyms I should include in my search? (e.g. guns & firearms, men & males, etc.)
  • Are there multiple forms of my keyword that I should try to include in my search? (e.g. legal, legalizing, legalization, legalized, etc.)
  • Are there keywords/concepts I want to make sure are omitted? (if searching for "mustang" with reference to horses, in certain databases you may want to omit any articles the titles of which contain the words "Ford" or "car") 
  • Are the keywords I have come up with as specific as I can make them?  (words like "psychology" or "Bible" or "philosophy" are very general and will return more results than you can sort through; more specific terms like "psychoanalysis" or "prison epistles" or "ontology" are narrower and will yield more relevant results.



bulleted list courtesy of North Central University Library

Limit results to include only the formats you select.  The number in parentheses indicates which how many of the total results listed are articles, books, ebooks, etc.

You may want to expand your results to include Journals. If so, click on "Add/Remove Databases" and then make your selection. You can select as many as you like, as groups or individual databases.

You can limit your subject search with Advanced Search if you know the subject ahead of time. If you prefer to limit after your search, you can see all your Subject search options for your topic.

When you open a detailed record for an item, the subject headings assigned to the item will appear in two places:

1. A short list of subject heading swill appear in the upper right corner of the page.  Below this listed headings
there will be a link to the complete list of subject headings near the bottom of the  page, which you can also scroll down to view.









2. Clicking on any of the subjects in the list will automatically run a search of WorldCat for other works with the same subject heading.

In WorldCat, there are five basic Boolean operators that allow you to combine search terms within a single search field:

Operator What it does Examples
AND (all caps) This operator will cause your search to return only results that contain all of the terms entered. Acts AND tongues
OR (all caps) This operator will cause your search to return results with any of the terms entered. women OR females
NOT (all caps) This operator causes your search to exclude results that contain the term entered. Mustang NOT car
Quotation marks " " This operator will cause the search to include only results with the exact phrase entered (i.e., all of the words between the parentheses in the exact order the are entered. "Pride and Prejudice"
Parentheses ( ) Use this operator to build complex, precise searches that utilize multiple operators. "New York" AND baseball NOT (Yankees OR Mets)


 courtesy of North Central University Library

Truncation (*)

A truncation symbol is placed at the end of a word that might have multiple forms to make sure all its forms are included in the search, or in the middle of a phrase where a word is unknown. Worldcat@SU uses an asterisk (*) to represent its truncation symbol. For example:

Search... Results include...
legal* legal
feminis* feminist
A Tale of * Cities A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Ten Cities
Peking: a tale of three cities


** You must enter three characters before the * for the system to recognize the search.**

Wildcards (# and ?)

Wildcards are symbols placed in the middle of words that allow you to search if you are unsure of the spelling of a word or when there are variant spellings of the word.  WorldCat uses the ? and # characters as wildcards in its system.  A pound sign (#) is used in the middle of a word to replace a single unknown letter.  A question mark (?) is used in place of multiple unknown letters, and is more effective when the number of question marks entered matches the number of missing letters.  For example :


Search... Results Include...

(will NOT include "mets")





 courtesy of North Central University Library

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Research Appointment

Librarians are available to help you find the articles, resources, and answers you need to get started on that paper or project! We can also help you look for obscure topics or locate books/articles not held in Smith Library's collections. Schedule a Research Appointment!