RIT Libraries: How Do I....?: Construct a Better Search

Information on how to use and navigate the RIT Library resources
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Summon Search Tips and Strategies

This page is intended to help you construct a better search so that you obtain the results you want!

It is best to not enter a sentence or lengthy string of words into the Summon search box.  It is more effective to enter short phrases or single words and connect your terms with a Boolean operator.  Please review the boxes below for more information on how to use phrase searching, Boolean operators and wildcard searches.

The tips below are specific to searching Summon.  Most databases, however, offer similar functionality.  Check the "Help" screen of a database to learn more about how each particular database functions.

Phrase Searching

Summon 2.0™ allows you to search for phrases using “ ” (quotes). Phrase searching allows you to search for documents containing a specific phrase rather than keywords in a randomized order.

The query “academic honesty” will find results with that phrase.

Wildcard (?,*) Searches

Searches  can be performed using the wildcards “?” (question mark) and “*” (asterisk).

The question mark (?) will match any one character and can be used to find “Smith” or “Smyth” by searching for “Sm?th”.

The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. A search for “Ch*ter” would match “Charter”, “Character”, and “Chapter”. When used at the end of a word, such as “Tech*”, it will match all suffixes “technology”, “technological”,  and “technically”.

Wildcards cannot be used as the first character of a search.

Proximity Searching

Proximity searching allows you to limit your results to those where your keywords appear within a certain number of words from each other.  This is helpful because the results are more likely to be meaningful to you if your search terms are occurring near each other and in the same context.  Proximity searching will remove the results where your search terms do appear within the document but are not being used together and are, therefore, likely to have a different meaning. 

To use the proximity search, enclose your search terms in quotes and use the tilde (~) followed by a number.  The number indicates the maximum number of words you wish to allow between your search terms.

For example:

"employee engagement"~5

finds material where "employee" and "engagement" appear within 5 words of each other.

NOTE: proximity searching does not take the order of search terms into account. A search on "employee engagement strategies"~5 will yield results in which the three search terms appear in various orders.

Boolean Operators

Summon offers the following Boolean operations: OR, NOT and AND. The operators must be written in ALL CAPS.

By default, all terms in a search are combined with the AND operator. To expand the results set, use the OR operator “microcircuits OR nanocircuits” will return items that contain either term.

This can be combined with quoted terms such as “teacher education” OR “educator training”.

To exclude items in Summon, use the NOT operator or “-” (hyphen) character before a term. When used in the following query “animal NOT dog” the results will not include the term “dog”.

Searching Specific Fields

The single search box in Summon (basic search box or keyword search box in advanced search) will search across many fields automatically. For example, entering an ISBN, ISSN, or Call Number will bring back  records related to those fields.

You can explicitly search a field using the syntax: “field:(search terms).” For example, the search ISSN:(1234-5678), finds records that contain that value in the ISSN field. Similarly, the search: title: (microelectronics systems) will deliver records that contain the words Microelectronic Systems in the title.

Searchable fields:

  • Title
  • SubjectTerms
  • Author
  • Publisher
  • PublicationTitle
  • Volume
  • Issue
  • Language
  • Notes
  • ISBN
  • ISSN
  • DOI
  • DEWEY

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Please contact your librarian with any questions.