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Guide to Searching Excelsior, the Online Catalog

Advanced Search Techniques

Combining Search Terms with Boolean Operators

Use Boolean operators between two search terms to broaden or narrow a search. Boolean operators are:


terms must be in the same record (narrows search)

Example: Alcohol AND Abuse$ (the $ sign is the truncation symbol)


either one or both terms must be in the same record (broadens search)


  • Alcoholic OR Alcoholism
  • Dogs OR Cats

the first term must be in the record, and the second term must not be in the record (narrows search)

Example: Alcohol NOT Drug


one or the other term must be in the record, but both terms cannot be in the same record (narrows search)

Example: Narcotics XOR Alcohol


  • If Boolean operators or stop words are part of a search string, put them in double quotes. For example, to search the term not-for-profit, type "NOT FOR" PROFIT.
  • Boolean operators do not work in Browse search options, which match words with indexes character by character.

Combining Search Words With Positional Operators

If two or more terms are typed in a text input box without using a Boolean operator between them, the system understands the positional operator SAME (the terms must be in the same field) and requires all the terms to appear in the same field.

Use positional operators between two words to retrieve records in which the two are in a particular physical relationship to each other. Positional operators are:


terms must be in the same field

Example: Revolution SAME Claims


terms must be in the same sentence in a field

Example: Investigation WITH Informants


terms must be adjacent to one another, in any order

Example: Delinquent$ NEAR Juvenile$

ADJ terms must be adjacent to one another and in the order in which they were entered

Note: If stop words or operator words are part of a search string, put them in double quotes. For example, to search for the phrase NEAR EAST, type "NEAR" ADJ EAST.

Grouping Search Terms with Parentheses

Use parentheses to refine a search by grouping words with two or more operators, for example:

  • Pollution AND (Water OR Air)
  • Education AND (Child OR Children OR Elementary OR Preschool OR Kindergarten)
  • (Spatial OR Geospatial) AND (Data OR Metadata)
  • Marine ADJ (Biology OR Ecology) AND (Arctic OR Antarctic OR Polar)

Search Limits

When doing a Power Search, search limits are at the bottom of the screen. When doing a Quick Search, the search can only be limited after results are retrieved. On a screen of brief records, scroll to the bottom of the screen to view the limits. Type in or select the limits, scroll up, and resubmit the search.

Limit a search by publication year, format, language, location, etc.

  • Format: Selecting the format SERIAL will limit a retrieval set to records for serials. (Caution: not all records have format information.)
  • Type: Ask staff for assistance if needed.
  • Language: Not all records can be searched by language.
  • Library
  • Location: Qualifying a search by location may be useful in certain instances. For example, to search for only New York State documents, limit the search by selecting:


    Note: For New York State Archives records, it is best to select ALL as the location, as materials could be in multiple locations.
  • Match on: The options are KEYWORDS, LEFT TO RIGHT or EXACT CONTENT. May be useful in Power Search.
  • Pubyear:
    Limiter Example
    > (greater than) > 1990
    < (less than) < 1950
    a range of years 1990-1994
    exact year 1999
  • Sort by: Determines the display order of search results. Results are not sorted if more than 100 records are retrieved.

Searching by OCLC number, ISSN, ISBN, or Archival series number

From the WORDS OR PHRASE option in the quick search

To search by OCLC number, enter the OCLC number. For older OCLC numbers with fewer than eight digits, you may need to type the 3-character prefix "OCM" in upper case followed by one or more zeros to bring the OCL number up to eight digits, e.g., if the OCLC were "123456", which has only six digits, enter "OCM00123456".

To search by ISSN, type the number exactly. For example:

  • 0366-5313

To search by ISBN, type the number without hyphens. For example:

  • 0913582271

To search by Archives series number, type the number and then be sure to select New York State Archives for the LIBRARY. For example:

  • 12590

To search by MARC tags, use the { } brackets. For example:

  • hudson{651}
  • harcourt, brace {260}
Last Updated: November 3, 2021