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Advanced Searching in the Online Catalog

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The OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) is the starting point for most research in the library.  Users can search for books, journals, videos, music CDs, CD-ROMs, and DVDs owned by the library. For general search help, see the guide Basics of the Online Catalog.

Note: The OPAC does not contain journal articles. For guidelines on searching for articles, please see the research guide entitled "Locating Periodicals and Periodical Articles.

Getting Started  | Quick Limits  |  Boolean Searching  | Advanced Search | Setting Search Limits | Sorting

Getting Started

1. Go to the library home page.
2. Click on the link for "Online Library Catalog"

Quick Limits

Quick limits can be used to limit your search to a selected number of locations and item types.  Please note that they only work with keyword, beginning of title, title phrase, subject keyword, and journal title phrase searches.

The search example below will retrieve videos that have the word "Shakespeare" anywhere in the record:

Screen shot showing a simple search for videos about Shakespeare

Boolean Searching

Boolean logic is a system of searching which uses the terms and, or, and not to control search results.  Parentheses are used to group ideas together. This method is used in the basic keyword search.

A keyword search for Hemingway and Faulkner will retrieve records that have both of the search terms in the record.

A keyword search for Hemingway or Faulkner will retrieve records that have either of the search terms in the record.

A keyword search for Hemingway not Faulkner will retrieve all the records that contain the first term but not the second one. Be careful with this one! You might miss a record with an abstract that says "Hemingway was the greatest writer that ever lived. I have also written a book about Faulkner; this book is all about Hemingway."

A keyword search for (Hemingway or Faulkner) and "short stories" will retrieve all the records that contain the second term and either of the first two terms.

TIP: In our OPAC, use quotation marks around phrases when performing any keyword search.

In the simple search mode, Boolean queries can only be performed as keyword searches.  To limit by author, subject, etc., use the advanced search.

Advanced Search

Use the advanced search tab to search for groups of words. The search below will retrieve all of the symphonies and concertos written by Beethoven that are part of the Kalmus miniature score series.

Screen shot of an advanced search for Beethoven symphonies or concertos that are part of the Kalmus miniature score series

The advanced search uses Boolean logic. In Boolean syntax, the advanced search example above would appear
Beethoven and (symphonies or concertos) and kalmus miniature

Using the advanced search tab saves you from having to put phrases in quotation marks and from having to figure out exactly how to nest your terms in parentheses.

Setting Search Limits button to use for limiting searches

You can also limit your search by language, collection, year, medium, and item type. To set search limits, click on the green "Set Search Limits" button (above) at the bottom right hand of the basic or advanced search screen. Once you have selected your search options and clicked the "Set Search Limits" button, you will be taken back to either the simple or advanced search page, whichever you were using. You can then enter a keyword, author, etc. to search for. When "literature" is entered as a keyword, the limits in the example below will retrieve literature books in German in the main circulating collection that were published between 1900 and 1950.

Screen shot showing how to set search limits to find a circulating book in German published between 1900 and 1950

To erase your limits, click on the button used to clear limits button on the search screen or the limits screen.


Generally, your results list is displayed in alphabetical order by title. However, you can re-sort your results to show results by author or date (from newest to oldest or vice versa). Once your results list is on the screen, click the "Sort by" button and choose which option you want. Your results will then be listed in the order you specified.

Screen shot showing how to sort results with the oldest items first

Updated March 7, 2006
Davis Memorial Library, Methodist University