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Langue Française, Littérature et Culture: Comment Chercher

Basics of Searching

This page is designed to give you the basics of searching in library catalogs, databases, and more. Review the skills and tips here before using the resources listed on the Trouver une Information page of this guide.

Searching Techniques

Finding materials in library databases, catalogs, or online requires similar skills. Below, I’ll explain two approaches. I’ll also include some additional tips and tricks:

1.    Finding something you know the name of – (known search)
  • If you know what you’re looking for, one of the easiest ways to find it is through phrase searching. Use quotation marks around a proper name or phrase to find an exact match: “to be or not to be” or “Andalusian Dog.” Use this technique everywhere from Chinook to Google to library databases.
  • If you’re in a database or the catalog (OneSearch or Chinook), you can do a combined title and author search from the Advanced Search Screen. Adding as many fields (title, author, publication date) as you know will help you find your item faster. This is called field searching.

Title and Author search in OneSearch for Proust's A la recherche du temps Peru

2.   Finding an unknown item – (unknown search)
  • Enter some keywords related to your topic in the search box. For example, Surrealist French films. You should get some results. In some databases or search engines, you may have to add the connector ‘AND’ in between your keywords: Surréalisme AND Film AND France (sometimes keywords can be put together in a phrase: “Surrealist film” AND France). This is called Boolean searching. ‘OR’ and ‘NOT’ are other Boolean connectors and operators, and usually work best when in capital letters. Here's what that looks like in an Advanced Search Screen:

Boolean-style search for (Surréalisme OR Surrealism) AND (film OR cinema) AND France

  • If you’re not getting results, or you’re not getting the ones you want, try searching for some information in Google or Wikipedia to get different keywords to try. For example, Salvador Dali's experimental film. A natural-language search like that will produce results that will include information about his surrealist film “Un Chien Andalou” or “An Andalusian Dog” from 1929.
Tips & Tricks
  • Even Google has some advanced search features, including Boolean operators
  • The library catalog, Chinook, and OneSearch have lots of options both on the Advanced Search screen, and on the filters that you can use to narrow your search after the fact
  • Many databases (EBSCO, ProQuest, JSTOR, etc.) will let you use a wildcard symbol. The symbol * can be added onto the root of a word, comput* to help you locate all variations of that word: computer, computers, computing, computational… Each database may have its own symbols(# or ?), so be sure to look for a Help Menu or Search Tips
  • When in doubt, you can always contact your Subject Librarian

Searching University Libraries Collections

OneSearch is the main search box you'll find on the library home page. It searches our library catalog, Chinook, plus a whole bunch of other great resources including article databases. If you know you need a book or journal, or to find out if we have a subscription, you can just use Chinook Classic.

Chinook has its own tips and search techniques. Check out the link below to learn how to use it like a pro!

Searching using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings are like tags on books and other items that tell you what these items are about. When you use Chinook, you may see strings of terms like these:

Cats -- Folklore

Cats -- Fiction

You can use these Subject Terms to search. Simply click on one of them to generate a new search. Or combine them using Chinook's advanced search screen to find other works that are tagged as being about the same subjects.

Chinook Advanced Search Screen showing search for Subject: Cats AND Subject: Folklore

Which library catalog should I search?

Using Catalogs at CU University Libraries

Finding ALTEC materials through University Libraries

Research Process: Consider Types of Information

Newspaper icon from noun project

What's the difference between a popular magazine, a scholarly journal, and a trade publication? What makes a blog different from a news article? Why are there different genres of writing and formats of sources?

Click the link below to learn about the options you have when selecting sources and how and why different types of sources are created:

Broadening and Narrowing Searches

Brainstorming keywords can save you time in the end. When you’re just starting a research project, it’s hard to predict the best terms to use. This is why you will have to try multiple searches. Through this process, you will learn what are the best terms to use.

Now let’s combine your terms into a search statement! You will combine your terms using Boolean Operators: “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT.” 

AND, OR, and NOT Venn diagram

Image from School District of Onalaska tech/boolean-search-tools


Adding an "AND" between search terms will help you narrow your search. For example, if I combine the terms, “minority students” AND “student organizations” AND participation, in an article database, I will only find articles that contain all of these terms and phrases in them.

NOT” also narrows your search by excluding terms. It can be helpful for disambiguation purposes. For example, if I were in an astronomy class, and I was studying Pluto, I might search for “Pluto NOT Disney” to eliminate results about the cartoon dog.


OR,” on the other hand, broadens your search. If I search for, “Black Student Union” OR “Student organizations” OR “extra-curricular activities” OR “student clubs” you will find articles that have at least one of these terms in it.

Using Library of Congress Call Numbers

Photograph of Spine Labels with Library of Congress Call Numbers

Photo by Bronwen K. Maxson. No rights reserrved.

Most academic university libraries us the Library of Congress Classification System to organize their materials. When you walk into the book shelves (for example, the Norlin Stacks), you will not see our books organized by Genre (Fiction, Romance, Mystery). Instead, our system allows us to locate books on similar topics near each other. A Call Number is like a book's address and will get you to a shelf of books on related topics. 

To use a Call Number, check out the link below from the University of Georgia.

If your book is not on the shelf, check the Sorting Shelves to see if we are in the process of returning the the book to it's shelf or ask for help at the Research Desk (level 2) or Bookfinders (level 3). Additionally, if you locate a resource in Chinook, the catalog, with a Dewey Decimal Number, you will have to request it from our off-site facility, PASCAL.

LC Book Classification


General Works


Philosophy, Psychology, Religion


Auxiliary Sciences of History


World History


History of the Americas


History of the Americas


Geography, Anthropology, Recreation


Social Sciences


Political Science








Fine Arts


Language and Literature










Military Science


Naval Science


Bibliography, Library Science