Keyword and Advanced Keyword Searching

Changes to Library services during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Keyword Searching Help Topics


Instructions Examples

Phrase Searching

Multiple words entered together are searched as individual words.

To search for a phrase, enter the phrase in quotation marks. If no match is found, remove the quotation marks to search as individual words.

  • planet jupiter will be searched as planet and jupiter; results will contain both words but not necessarily adjacent
  • "Cold war" results will show records that contain the words Cold war, as a phrase (adjacent to each other)

Boolean operators

To search multiple words not as a phrase use:

  • and to find all of the words in any order
  • or to find any of the words
  • and not to exclude one or more words

When using more than one operator, use parentheses to group words.

To search operators as words, enter them in quotation marks.

You can use Boolean operators with phrase searching.


  • & replaces and
  • | replaces or
  • law and youth
  • polar and not bear
  • ("capital punishment" or "death penalty") and Canada
  • art and (mexico and not new)
  • War "and" peace, or "War and peace"
  • (art | painting) & (lgbt* | queer)

Proximity operator

Use the proximity operator to specify the maximum number of words that may appear between your search terms. The syntax is "a b"~n, where a and b are your search terms and n is the maximum number of words between them.


For example: "usability testing"~1 will find instances of "usability testing", "testing usability", "testing the usability", "testing for usability" and any other case where "usability" and "testing" are separated by one or fewer words.


Proximity operators work with Boolean operators and with phrase searching. However, you cannot use truncation or wildcards as part of a proximity search. Also, be aware that common words excluded from most searches (see below), are included in the number that you specify, so that "gone wind"~1 will not find "gone with the wind."

  • "usability testing"~1
  • engineering AND "women men"~3
  • "canada peacekeeping"~11 OR "canada peace-keeping"~11
  • ""southern narrative" "cultural reproduction""~8

Truncation or Wildcards

Words may be internally or right-hand truncated by using:

  • ? for one character within a word,
  • * (single asterisk) for any number of characters,
  • Note: truncation or wildcarding can only be used after at least two characters.

The words in the keyword synonym list have variant spellings and will be retrieved together under either spelling. To bypass this enter the word in quotes, e.g. "labour"

  • wom?n and child*
  • czech*
  • teen* and "mass media"
  • Sven Anders*n
  • centre - will retrieve both centre and center

Searching common words and initial articles

All words, including one and two letter words and initial articles, are indexed and should be included in a search.

Initial articles (a, an, the, le, la, les) are ignored only if they are the first word in a search, but will be included if enclosed in quotation marks.

  • Gone with the wind
  • "Le Blanc" or "Le" Blanc
  • b flat
  • "a" flat, or "a flat"

Searching specific fields

Specify fields to search, using the following field abbreviations:

  • a: (for author field),
  • t: (for title field),
  • s: (for subject heading field)
  • n: (for notes field)

Multiple words will only be searched as a phrase. To search as words repeat the field abbreviation.

  • t: Greenhouse gas and a: Canada
  • a: shakespeare and t: macbeth and recording
  • a: canada and a: industry and s: indust*
  • a: asimov and s: astronomy

Limiting a Keyword Search

Searching Tip: To retrieve all records that meet a limit criteria, enter * in the keyword box, pick or enter a limit, and click on Search.


Choose the language of publication. Multilingual works are included.

  • Any (default)
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Russian

Material Type

Choose the type of material from the list.


Location from the bibliographic record. Note that when there are multiple copies with different locations (such as a newspaper that we have in print and in microfiche), these titles may not be included.


Enter one or more words from the name of the publisher.

Year: After and Before

Enter the publication range of dates. When entering a range of dates, the years entered will be excluded from the search.

  • To search for 2000 to 2010, you must enter "After 1999 and Before 2011".
  • To search for 2012 only, you must enter "After 2011 and Before 2013".

Search and Sort

Three sort options are available:

  • Relevance (default) : Relevancy of a record is indicated by a one to five scale display. Ranking occurs on the fields that include the search term. The title field is most relevant, followed by author, subject and notes. All records with search terms in the same field are ranked according to the position of those terms and a variety of other factors.
  • Title : alphabetical
  • Date : sorts in reverse order of date of publication (latest date first)

A search that is entered in "quotes" can only be sorted by either date or title.

Content last reviewed: December 6, 2018