FirstSearch Tutorial

Basic searching - plurals, truncations, wildcards & examples

  • Type one or more key search terms in the Search for: box. If you are searching for an exact phrase, enclose the phrase in quotes.
  • Select an index. For more index options, try the advanced or expert search levels.
    Note: An index is a searchable file of terms used to point to library resources.
  • Browse the selected index if you would like to verify the correct spelling and format for any of your search terms. To access the Browse indexes feature, click the Index icon at the top or bottom of the screen.
  • Select limits if you want to narrow your search. Available limits vary by database. For more limit options, try the advanced or expert search levels, or see 'Refining a basic search' below.
  • Choose an option from the Rank by: drop-down menu if you'd like to rank your results. For more information on ranking, see 'Selecting a rank option' below. This feature may not be available in some databases.
  • Click the Search button.
  • Review the list of search results and refine the search as needed.
Plurals

To search for a word and its plural form, add a plus sign + to the singular form. The plus + will search for any plural formed with either -s or -es. For example, giraffe+ retrieves all records that contain giraffe and giraffes.
To search for the plural of words that change form, such as mouse or story, search for both forms and combine them with the Boolean operator OR. For example, to retrieve mouse and its plural, search for mouse OR mice.
If you type:FirstSearch searches for:
mammal+ records containing mammal and/or its plural, mammals
wax+ records containing wax and/or its plural, waxes
leaf OR leaves records containing leaf and/or its plural, leaves

Truncation

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 an asterisk *. For example, securit* retrieves records that contain security, securities, securitization, etc.
Note: Truncation can only be used after the third character. Also, truncation is currently set to read a limit of 50 index entries; this limit was devised to achieve better performance by the FirstSearch system and will result in an error message if the user enters a truncation query that is too general.
If you type:FirstSearch searches for:
instruction* records containing instruction, instructions and instructional
dogg* records containing doggie, doggy, dogges, doggerel, doggett and d'oggi

Wildcards

Wildcards are used to represent from zero to nine 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. FirstSearch recognizes two wildcards.
A pound sign # represents a single character.
A question mark ?, alone or with a number, represents from zero to nine additional characters. Include a number if you know the maximum number of characters the wildcard will replace. Otherwise, use the question mark ? alone to represent any number of characters within a single term, including no additional characters.
Note: Wildcards can only be used after the third character of a term.
If you type:FirstSearch searches for:
wom#n records containing woman and women
colo?r records containing color, colour, colonizer, and colorimeter
colo?1r records containing color, colour, but not colonizer or colorimeter

 

 

Examples of a basic search

You are looking for:
 
Try using the terms:
In this index:
the effectiveness of natural herbs when taken to prevent the common cold. common cold AND natural
common cold AND herbs
keyword
all publications using The Owl and the Pussycat as a title the owl and the pussycat title
anything written by John Easton (browse the author index to check for name variations before searching )
easton john
(Enter last name first. Use the Advanced Search for common last names.)
author

 

Advanced searching

The Advanced Search screen lets you construct more complex search statements. Each search string entered in a Search for: box uses a single index. Up to three search strings in three indexes can be combined using Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT).

To find information about pollution AND (lake+ OR ocean+), type the search terms enclosed in parentheses in the second Search for: box. You can also enter the entire search string into the first Search for: box.

 Action
1 Type one or more key search terms into the first Search for: box. If you are searching for an exact phrase, enclose the phrase in quotes.  
2 Indexes are displayed in the box to the right of your search term. Click the drop-down list box to see all available indexes. Then, select the index in which you expect to find these terms.
Note: An index is a searchable file of terms used to point to library resources.
3 Type search terms in the second and third Search for: box as needed.
4 Choose the indexes for the second and third search strings.
5 Browse the indexes if you would like to verify the correct spelling and format for any of your search terms. To access the Browse indexes feature, click the Index icon to the right of each drop-down index box.
6 Select Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) to combine the search strings entered in the second or third boxes.
7
Select limits if you want to narrow your search. In an advanced search, you can limit by Year. Other available limits vary by database.
  • Year format = yyyy (for a year range use yyyy-yyyy)
For more information on limits, see 'Refining an advanced search' below.
8 If you'd like to rank your results, choose an option from the Rank by: drop-down menu. For more information on ranking, see 'Selecting a rank option' below.
9 Click the Search button.
10 Review the list of search results and refine the search as needed.

 

 

Indexes and examples of an advanced search

Search indexes Examples
Author coffee
coffee john
Keyword coffee and tea house+
Standard number 1092 177x
Subject kenya
kenyan coffee
Title music w3 british
organ music with a british accent
Year 1991

 

Adjacent terms (proximity)

To find terms within a certain distance of other terms, use the proximity operators w or n followed by a number. You can string together multiple terms and proximity operators, such as curator n2 art w3 forgery, and you can use phrases with a proximity operator, such as space shuttle n4 orbit.

W (with)

Type w or with between two terms to search for records containing both terms, in the order typed, with no words between them. Type w and a number (1-25) between two terms to search for records containing both terms, in the order typed, with no more than that number of other words between them.
If you type:FirstSearch searches for:
aluminum w wiring records containing first aluminum and then wiring with no other words between them
aluminum w2 wiring records containing first aluminum and then wiring with no more than two other words between them

N (near)

Type n or near between two terms to search for records containing both terms, in any order, with no words between them. Type n and a number (1-25) between two terms to search for records containing both terms, in any order, with no more than that number of other words between them.
If you type:FirstSearch searches for:
overview n 1998 records containing overview and 1998 with either word appearing first and with no other words between them
chicken n3 egg records containing chicken and egg with either word appearing first and with no more than three other words between them

Searching phrases

To search for an exact phrase that includes either with or near in any position other than the first word, such as byzantine near east or life with father, enclose the entire phrase in quotes.

If you type:FirstSearch searches for:Results:

near east

the words near and east

8900

"near east"

the exact phrase "near east"

6700

byzantine near east

the word byzantine directly before or after the word east

15

byzantine "near" east

the words byzantine, near and east

40

"byzantine near east"

the exact phrase "byzantine near east"

4

Refining Search Results on The Limit Results screen

The Limit Results screen provides database-specific limits to refine your current search. Select the limit-by-category heading or the plus icon to see individual limiters. For some databases, whenthe results are above 10,000, only the limit option will be displayed without information on the number of records in your current results set.

Note: Availability of any database-specific limit will depend on the database selected.

Author and subject. Author and subject headings are assembled from the first 50 records of your current results set. Only the first 20 authors or subject headings are initially listed. To see additional authors or subjects, scroll to the bottom of the category and click Show Remaining Authors or Show Remaining Subjects. Each related author or subject heading is displayed with a percentage number indicating the frequency of its occurrence within the results subset. Use the items in these categories to limit your current search to a specific author or subject heading.

Other limits. Other limits may be displayed, followed by the number of times the limiter appears in your current results set. For example, in the year category, the limit displayed as '1997 2650' indicates that 2650 records in your current results set were published in the year 1997.

Imposing limits

  • To impose a single limit on your current search, click the linked limit.
  • To impose multiple limits, click the checkboxes in front of each limit, then click the Search button. FirstSearch will combine the limits using the Boolean OR operator, then add the original search statement using the Boolean AND operator.
  • To combine limits from different categories, expand each category, select limits using the checkboxes, then click the Search button. FirstSearch will combine the limits from the same category using the Boolean OR operator, combine limits from different categories using the Boolean AND operator, then add the original search statement using the Boolean AND operator.

The following table provides examples of single, multiple, and combined limits imposed on the sample search kw:dog. For more information on combining search terms using Boolean operators, see the help topic on 'Combining search terms' in the Related topics below.

Click:To limit your current search to:Resulting Search String:
Any single limit Records containing the selected limit, for example author=Bowser
au=Bowser AND kw:dog
Checkboxes for multiple items in a single category and the Search button Records containing more than one limit from the same category, for example author=Bowser and author=Fido
(au=Bowser OR au=Fido) AND kw:dog
Checkboxes for multiple items in multiple categories and the Search button Records containing more than one limit from more than one category, for example author=Bowser, author=Fido, year=1996, and year=1997
(au=Bowser OR au=Fido) AND (yr=1996 OR yr=1997) AND kw:do

Click the Clear button to clear any previously selected items in the list. For per-search users, applying limits to your current results set will count as a search.