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Search guidelines

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

Several techniques are available for searching. To get the best results, use advanced search. See below for detailed descriptions.

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.


this search... returns these titles...
Keyword: blood chemistry
  • 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.

this search... returns these titles...
Keyword: "blood chemistry"
  • 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 described for Keywords above.

Boolean operators

Boolean operators allow you to group, include, or exclude certain terms in your search. You can use these operators:

operator description a search for... will return results...
AND (uppercase), or the plus sign + This is the default search operator. WorldCat searching uses the word "AND" or the plus sign to find all of the words typed in the search box.

 Note: Any search for terms without an operator will return items with all the words
guns germs steel
guns AND germs AND steel
guns + germs + steel
with all of the words entered in the search box: guns, germs, steel
OR (uppercase), or the | symbol The use of the word "OR", or the | symbol, will search for either of the words listed in the search box. Paris OR fashion 
Paris | fashion
for any of the words entered in the search box: 
NOT (uppercase), or the minus sign - The word "NOT" or the minus sign will exclude terms from your search. Paris - fashion
Paris NOT fashion
for Paris but not fashion
quotation marks " " To search for an exact phrase, the search terms should be enclosed in quotation marks. “The Grapes of Wrath” where all words are located directly next to each other in the search results
parentheses ( ) Use parentheses to create more precise searches. dog (walking or feeding or grooming) dog walking
dog feeding
dog grooming

Common word exclusion

Before a search is sent to the search engine, any words from the common word list (below) will be excluded.  Any words in the search that start with the character ‘+’ (and) or ‘-‘ (not) will not be excluded.

The following is the current list of common words to be excluded:

language excluded words
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 la le les des un une
German der das dass du er sie es wer wie mit am im in aus auf ist sein wird ihr ihre ihres als von mit dich dir mich mir mein sein kein wird


Wildcards are special characters used to represent additional characters in a search term. They are useful when you are unsure of spelling, when there are alternate spellings, or when you only know part of a term. You can use these two wildcards:

  • Pound sign (#) – The pound sign, also called a number sign or hash mark, represents a single character.

    this search... returns items whose record contains...
    wom#n woman

    adverti#e advertise

  • 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.

    this search... returns items whose record contains...
    anders?n anderson

    bu?2ler burner



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 (*).


this search... returns items whose record contains...
securit* security


invest* investor