Search engines don't want us to think too hard about how we are searching. We type in our question and sometimes we find information that seems to match the question. 

That's nice, but it doesn't always work and we're left wondering (and frustrated). Unfortunately, the algorithms used by search engines are proprietary (trade secrets). We don't really know exactly how they are processing our search terms -- when they work and when they don't.

Library catalogs and databases process words and phrases connected by "operators." The operators are the terms AND, OR, NOT.  The terms are matched to titles, to summaries of the books, tables-of-contents, and sometimes to the full-text of the book. That's how it works. No secrets.

"climate change" AND technology narrows your search to find books with both the phrase, climate change, and the term, technology, in the description.
"climate change" OR "global warming" broadens your search to find books with either of these phrases.

In addition, most catalogs, and many databases, include subject headings or descriptor terms in the record that will lead us to other sources.



Searching the library catalog


  1. From the library homepage, open the link to the library catalog
  2. Combine keywords and phrases, e.g. "oil industry" and climate

library homepage with link to catalog

Library Catalog interface