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Search tips

Discover how to use search techniques (e.g., keywords, Boolean operators, wildcards, etc.) to refine your search results in WorldCat.org.

Several techniques are available for searching. To get the best results, use an advanced search.

Keyword search

A keyword search uses one or more complete words that are contained anywhere in the item's record, including titles, notes, abstracts, summaries, descriptions, and subjects. 

Keywords can also be names of people and places that are the subjects of a library resource or a listing in a directory.

You can enter words in upper or lower case, and if you use multiple words you can enter them in any order.

Example
A keyword search for blood chemistry returns these titles:

  • Abnormal blood chemistry values in Hodgkin's disease 
  • Chemistry of blood type
  • Early blood chemistry in Britain and France 
  • General clinical chemistryBlood loss from laboratory tests

Your search results can contain a range of items related to your search keyword(s):

  • words from the title
  • words that describe the subject matter
  • the author's name
  • the item's format and/or language
  • year of publication
  • name(s) or publishers and/or distributors of the item
  • if the item is an article, the name of the magazine or journal in which the article appeared
  • for recorded music and movies: artist, actor, or director name

Phrase search

A phrase search uses quotation marks to allow an exact match to the phrase searched.

Example
A phrase search for "blood chemistry" returns these titles:

  • Abnormal blood chemistry values in Hodgkin's disease
  • Blood chemistry tutorials
  • Early blood chemistry in Britain and France
  • Study in post-operative blood chemistry

Although these examples show titles, your search results can contain the same range of items as a keyword search.

Boolean operators

Boolean operators allow you to narrow or broaden your search. group, include, or exclude certain terms in your search.

 Note: Boolean operators must be capitalized.

Operator Description Examples
AND or a plus sign (+) The use of the word AND or the plus sign will search for all words entered in the search field.
 

 Note: This is the default search operator in WorldCat.org. Any search for terms without an operator will return items with all the words.

Any of the following searches return results with all of the words entered in the search field (gunsgermssteel).
  • guns germs steel
  • guns AND germs AND steel
  • guns + germs + steel
OR or a vertical bar ( | ) The use of the word OR or the vertical bar will search for either of the words entered in the search field. Any of the following searches return results with any of the words entered in the search field (Paris, fashion).
  • Paris OR fashion
  • Paris | fashion
NOT or a minus sign (-) The use of the word NOT or the minus sign will exclude terms entered in the search field. Any of the following searches return results with fashion excluded.
  • Paris NOT fashion
  • Paris - fashion

You can also use the following to group or narrow your search:

  • Quotation marks (" ") - Enclose your search terms in quotation marks to search for an exact phrase (e.g., A search for "The Grapes of Wrath" returns items with The Grapes of Wrath directly next to each other).
  • Parentheses ( () ) - Enclose a Boolean string in parentheses to create more precise searches (e.g., A search for dog (walking or feeding or grooming) returns items with dog walking, dog feeding, and dog grooming).

Common word exclusion

Before a search is sent to the search engine, any words from the common word lists will be excluded.  Any words in the search that start with a plus sign (+) or a minus sign (-) will not be excluded.

English

a

an

and

are

as

at

be

but

by

for
from

had

have

he

her

his

how

in

is

it
not

of

on

or

that

the

this

to

was

which
with

you

French

de

des

la

le

les

un

une

German

als

am

auf

aus

das

dass

der

dich

dir

du
er

es

ihr

ihre

ihres

im

in

ist

kein

mein
mich

mir

mit

sein

sie

von

wer

wie

wird

Wildcards

Wildcards are special characters used to represent additional characters in a search term. They are useful when you are unsure of the spelling, when there are alternate spellings, or when you only know part of a term.

Pound sign

The pound sign (#), also called a number sign or hashtag, represents a single character.

Examples
A search for wom#n returns items whose record contains:

  • woman
  • women

A search for adverti#e returns items whose record contains:

  • advertise
  • advertize

Question mark

The question mark (?) represents any number of additional characters. Include a number if you know the maximum number of characters the wildcard will replace.

Examples
A search for anders?n returns items whose record contains:

  • anderson
  • andersen

A search for bu?2ler returns items whose record contains:

  • burner
  • butler

Truncation

Truncation allows you to search for a term and its variations by entering a minimum of the first three letters of the term followed by a question mark symbol (?) or an asterisk (*).

Examples
A search for securit* returns items whose record contains:

  • security

  • securities

  • securitization

A search for invest* returns items whose record contains:

  • investor

  • invested

  • investing

  • investiture

  • investment