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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

IFSI Library Website Guide

This is a guide intended to walk a new user through the process of using the IFSI Library website.

Using Advanced Search

To use the advanced search features, click on the "Advanced search" link beneath the "Search Library catalog" field on the left side of the page.


Especially for beginner searchers, we recommend sticking to traditional search methods using the simple search function. The advanced search page is intended for those ready to take their search skills to the next level. However, often the simple search generates the best results.

Search Fields

If you have enough information about the specific material or kind of material you are looking for, it is possible to limit your search so that only the specific materials you are looking for appear on the results page. This can be done with search fields. There are quite a few available to use, but the most common are Keyword, Subject, Title, and Author.

Be aware that searching by keyword is typically fine, and occasionally a better option.

Keywords are the default search field. This is the search field that is automatically used when using the simple search and are useful when trying to broadly search a word or a phrase as it appears in any material.

The subject search field finds the word or phrase in the metadata (the behind the scenes of the material) under the subject category. This is useful if your search is generating too many irrelevant results. Searching by subject limits your search, but ensures that the results will be relevant to the topic.

Searching by title is a great way to quickly find the exact resource you need, assuming you know the title of the material, but it is also a risky way of doing so because if you put a word in that does not belong, the search could fail. Besides, performing a simple search will just as likely give you the title you want right away.

The title search could also be used to narrow results and ensure relevance. For example, searching "arson" as a keyword and "dog" as a title, the results will prioritize materials about arson that have "dog" in the title. This ensures that the material not only mentions dogs once, but is a material specifically about dogs. However, as a disclaimer, simple search functions are typically smart enough to automatically prioritize resources with the keywords in the title, or those that use the keywords frequently.

Searching by author is perfect if you do not have the title but know the author's name, or if you like a particular author's work and want to see more materials by that author. Just be sure that the author's name is spelled exactly right, or else the search may fail.

Boolean Search: AND, OR, and NOT

A Boolean search is a search that uses the indicators "AND," "OR," and/or "NOT" to accurately limit search results. Let's break this down with an example. We'll use Boolean logic while deciding how to search for materials on dogs used in detecting arson. Use the tabs to navigate this tutorial.

Let's start with AND.

AND is the most basic of the three. Imagining a Venn diagram with one circle as our search term "arson" and the other circle as our search term "dog," AND would represent the small section in the middle. The results would prioritize materials with both "arson" and "dog" as keywords. In other words, materials just about arson or just about dogs will be moved far down the list or more likely excluded entirely.

OR is a commonly used Boolean search term, and a good reason why you would use the advanced search instead of a basic search. However, it is a little more confusing than AND to use.

While searching "arson" AND "dog" will generate good results, it will not reveal all the materials about the subject. There will be no results about canines and arson, which is clearly still relevant. This is where OR comes in. By using the term OR, you tell the catalog that you want to include another term. Let's add it to our arson dog search string. By searching "arson" AND "dog" OR "canine," your results would include materials about arson that include either dog or canine as keywords. Imagining our Venn diagram again, OR would represent the entire diagram, because it gathers everything that includes both search terms, "arson" and "dog."

It is important not to search "dog" AND "canine," or else your results will prioritize materials that include both and will probably exclude any that only have one or the other.

NOT is probably the least commonly used, but can be really helpful at times.

Imagine we are searching for materials on arson dogs but the results are saturated with materials about the use of arson dogs as evidence in court cases and all of the results you see have the term "court" in the title, but you are not interested in these resources. In our search string, we can input "arson" AND "dogs" NOT "court" to eliminate results that include "court" as a keyword.

Boolean Venn Diagrams

Type of Material

On the Advanced Search page, it is also possible to limit by item type. If the material you are looking for is a book, or a DVD, or an audiobook, this would be the place to indicate that. The results will exclude all other formats. If you are driving across state and need an audiobook, for example, this would be how you ignore all other formats in your search.


On the Advanced Search page, there are also a number of other limiters available in order to narrow in on the best resource for the searcher. This includes options such as the publication range or language. These should only be used if you are absolutely sure that the information being used is correct.