Skip to main content

EMPOWER: Using the Catalog: Searching

Different Ways of Searching

There are several options for searching the catalog.

Type of Search: What it Does:
Basic Search Finds items by keyword, title, author, subject, etc.
Advanced Search

Finds items on a topic by using variety of search options. Can search multiple fields at once.

Use an Advanced Search when you:

  • are doing a preliminary search and need ideas for additional search terms
  • need to combine two or more concepts
  • are searching for a phrase
  • want to see what is available in the library on your topic
Course Reserves Finds course materials placed on reserve by an instructor.

Advanced Search Tips

An Advanced Keyword search provides fill-in boxes and drop-down menus that make searching easy. You have the option of searching any field, author, title, subject, or notes. You can also combine additional search terms with and, and not, or, near, before, or after.

Multiple Words Multiple words entered in a search box will all occur somewhere in the results, though not necessarily in the order entered. All examples below will retrieve the same results.

Examples: children divorce poverty
                 poverty children divorce
                 divorce children poverty

Phrase Searches Search for complete phrases by enclosing them in quotation marks. Words enclosed in double quotes will appear together in all results exactly as typed.

Example: "contemporary american novel"

Wildcards Words may be right-hand truncated using an asterisk (*) in place of several characters. Use '?' to replace a single character anywhere within a word.

Examples: environment* polic*, wom?n

Searching the Catalog

Subject Searching

You'd think you could enter any words that describe your topic as a subject search in the online catalog. However, the subject search uses special terms to organize books by subject. These are called Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). If you enter your keywords as a subject search, you may not get much back. For example:

If you entered a subject heading search for: acquired immune deficiency you would get no books!

But if you searched using the LCSH term, AIDS (Disease) you'd see the library has many books.

How do you find the right subject terms?

The disadvantage to subject searching is that it's hard to know what LCSH terms will used be for a topic.

A good strategy is:

  1. First, use your own terms in a basic or advanced keyword search.
  2. Then look at the records for books that are on your topic.
  3. Write down any good subject terms that are listed in the catalog record and use them later in subject searches, or
  4. Click on the linked subject term from the record.

Names as a Subject Search

You can also use a subject search to find books about a person or organization.

To search for books about a person you can enter their name (last-name first) in a subject search:

robeson paul             twain mark

Similarly, you can find books about an organization by entering its name as a subject search.

general motors corporation

Great work!

You have completed the Using the Catalog tutorial! Now you should be able to:

  • recognize that the catalog contains more than just books 
  • find items using a variety of search strategies 
  • identify a call number and locate items within the library

If you are using EMPOWER as part of a course, log on to Blackboard and take the Using the Catalog quiz.


Go back to the EMPOWER menu to choose another module.