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Q. What search options are available in QuickSearch?

What strategies can I use to improve my results?

Answered By: Beth Juhl
Last Updated: Sep 13, 2017     Views: 71

Keyword of Full Text is the Default

By default, a search in QuickSearch is a keyword search with the word "and" presumed between terms. 

Results will include articles, books, or other publications that have your search terms somewhere in the full text.  Because you are searching full text against such a large database, it is a good idea to keep the basic sort on relevance, rather than date.  Use the date limits to filter your results. 

Phrase Searching

Use quotation marks "" to retrieve an exact phrase.  Example: "slime molds." 


Searches can be performed using the wildcards ? and *.

The question mark (?) will match any one character and can be used to find Olsen or Olson by searching for Ols?n.

The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. A search for labo*r will match, for example, labor, labour, laborer, labourer, etc. When used at the end of a word, manage* finds manager, managers, management, etc.

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

Important to know: Any terms retrieved using either * or ? characters are not considered when sorting your results based on relevance (the default). There is no way for Summon to assess the relevance of these terms to your search. For example, your search for 'bio*' could return occurrences of any or all of these terms: 'bionic' or 'biosynthesis' or 'biodegrade' or 'biographic.' One, some, all, or none could be relevant to your research.


QuickSearch 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, use the NOT operator or the minus sign (-) before a term. The search animal NOT dog does not include results with the term dog.

Increasing the Weight of a Term

Use the ^ character to increase the weight of a specific term. The ^ character should be followed by a weight of at least 100 to make a difference in the search results. 

Example: in the search  microwear^100  dental hominid term "microwear" will have more weight and result relevancy will favor that term.

Searching Specific Fields

In Advanced Search, you can choose specific fields to search in from the drop-down menus.  Some of the most popular search fields  include:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Publication Title
  • Publisher
  • Subject Terms
  • ISBN
  • ISSN
  • DOI

You can also use these fields in Basic QuickSearch. Example: title:contestedt plains and author:west.

Facets (Refining your search)

QuickSearch uses a variety of facets to limit and refine search results, much like Amazon and database providers like ESBCOhost. Results can be refined by date, subject, publication type and other options.  Each time you turn a facet on or off and click "Apply," your search is repeated and you'll see a new set of results.  Select as many options as you wish, but allow the screen to refresh between each one.  

Most facets will reduce the number of search results.  Use the more link beneath a set of facets to see additional choices (these are typically listed in order of the number of results) and to use an exclude facet option in addition to the default include option.

Popular choices for limiting your results are to select documents that are available with full text online, from scholarly publications or not in newspapers.

Use Advanced Search to limit your results up front to exclude newspaper articles or reviews. 

Scholarly Publications Limit

When you turn on the Limit to articles from scholarly publications, including the peer-review option, you will limit your search results to articles from peer-reviewed journals. (Note that books from academic and university publishers are often considered "scholarly," but this option eliminates all books from your results.)

This option uses data from UlrichsWeb - Ulrich's Periodical Directory , which identifies scholarly and peer-reviewed journals.  Note that the identification of "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" is at the journal level.  Even a peer-reviewed journal can have editorial or news articles, in addition to the more formal academic articles.  More about scholarly and peer-reviewed journals

Thanks to Cornell University Libraries for their excellent tip sheet.  

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