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Using the Library Catalog


Advanced Searching

This guide will get you started finding and getting materials through the BC Libraries Catalog.

Advanced Search Techniques (3:37)

The “advanced search” option in most search tools gives you multiple ways of controlling what results you’ll get before you even hit the “search” button. This video will focus on ways of narrowing or expanding your search results in the library catalog. These techniques also work in most databases.

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Advanced Search Using Multiple Terms

Click on the Advanced Search link from the main library page. Start with one search term, such as social media. Then you can gradually focus in on the most relevant results by:

  • adding quotation marks around phrases
  • adding more search terms connected by AND, OR, or NOT
  • using a wildcard (*) marker to cover terms with different endings
  • limiting by date

This search returns a list of items that have the phrases "social media" or "social networks," and the words activist, activists and activism somewhere in the record, and the phrase "big data" not in the record, and are published between 2012 and 2017:

Advanced search, with several search parameters highlighted in red boxes:'"social media" OR "social networks"' on line one, the AND drop-down and "activis*" on line two, the NOT drop-down and "big data" on line three, and the years 2012 and 2017 selected in the year range to the right.

Other search options are available as well. For instance, you can use the drop-down labeled "Any field" to select where you want to search for terms, such as Author or Title. You can also use the "Material Type" drop-down to select only books, films, or another material type, or the Language drop-down to limit to items in a particular language. Or use the Books, Articles, or Anything buttons to search only those types of items. You can even limit by library in the "Search Scope" drop-down.

Using Subject Tags

Another way to focus your search on more relevant results is to use subject tags, which are tags created by librarians to indicate what an item is about. SupposeTweets and the Streets sounds relevant, and you want to find similar books. If you clicked on the title, you'd see the full record:

Book image and catalog record for the book Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism, published in 2012, with a red arrow pointing downward

Then you could scroll down to Details.  The subject tag, Social media -- Political Aspects looks promising. (Click on the image below to see that what happens when you click that subject tag.)

Details about Tweets and the Streets, with the subject tag "Social Media -- Political Aspects" highlighted in a red rectangle.

Building Advanced Searches in the Simple Search Bar

You don't have to use the advanced search screen to do advanced searches. As you build skills, you can design more complex searches right in the simple search bar on the home page.


Add quotation marks around a term to search it as a phrase

"great depression"

Adding more options

Use wildcards–an asterisk (*)–to find variants on a word.

allerg* will bring results for allergy, allergies, allergens, allergic, etc.
col*r will bring results for color or colour

Combine terms using AND, OR, and NOT (in uppercase)

plastics AND environment
will narrow to results that have both terms
plastics OR environment
will broaden to results that have either term
plastics NOT environment
will eliminate results that contain the term environment

Combining all options

Nest searches using parentheses

(squid OR octopus) AND ("Gulf of California" OR "Sea of Cortez")