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General Search Tips

These general search tips apply to most search engines, subject databases, library catalogues, and other discovery services.

How do I search for people, titles or topics?

  • If you are looking for a person (e.g. the author), limit your search to the last name. First names are not always found or only in abbreviated form.
  • When searching for a title, enter 2-3 keywords. This is usually sufficient to limit the number of hits. The more words you enter, the smaller the number of hits, but the faster it can happen that you do not find the title you are looking for because the spelling is different.
  • If you are not looking for a specific title, but for a topic, use the "simple search" or search fields such as "All Fields", "Free text", "Topic" or "Keyword".

Entering search terms

Upper and lower case letters, special characters, umlauts

  • Upper and lower case letters are of no significance for the search, both will always retrieve the same result.
  • One-figure special characters such as the stress on é as in mathématique or the Å in Årsbok can simply be omitted.
  • Umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and ß will be resolved and you retrieve results with ae, oe, ue and ss as well. If you enter erlaß you will get results containing the words both Erlass and Erlaß
  • In some subject databases - especially those from English-speaking countries - the umlauts in the title of an essay, for example, are always converted into the basic form. This must then also be taken into account in the search.

Use placeholders

If the spelling of a term is not clear to you or if you want to find a term in different spellings / forms / languages at the same time, use wildcards. The asterisk (*) often replaces any number of characters, the question mark (?) exactly one character.

  • You search for: librar*
    You will get results containing the words: Library, Libraries, Librarian
  • You search for: tele*on
    You will get results containing the words: Telefon, Telephon (but also: Television, Telecommunication etc.)
  • You search for: do?umentation
    You will get results containing the words: documentation or Dokumentation

In some search services, wildcards cannot be used at all, or can only be used at the end of a word, or only the asterisk can be used and not the question mark. As a rule, you cannot use wildcards at the beginning of a word.

Word forms / automatic wildcards

Some search services perform an automatic search for further word forms or similar terms or always add a wildcard at the end of a search term without you having to enter it. In these cases it can happen that you switch off the automatic search for word forms or similar by putting an asterisk and therefore you get less hits than without a wildcard. In some search services, you may also have to select quotation marks or special search fields in order to perform an "exact search" (without wildcards).

Combing search terms

There are several ways to combine several search terms within one search field or terms in different search fields. Many databases offer the following options:

Find all terms (AND)

Use the word AND (in capitals), the plus sign or simply the space bar to get hits that contain all search terms.

  • star AND trek
  • star +trek
  • star trek

If you use space bar, usually the hits will be displayed first where all search terms occur and then those that contain only some or one of the entered search terms.

Word groups (phrase search)

Use quotation marks to get only hits where the search terms appear directly next to each other (in a specific order).

  • "star trek"
  • "james t. kirk"

Find one or more terms (OR)

Use the word OR (in capitals) or the brackets (...) to get hits with either one or the other (or both) search terms.

  • star OR stern
  • (star stern)

Since the search range is greatly expanded with an OR operation, you will often find a large number of hits. Therefore it is useful to add another term to the search, which must occur (AND or phrase).

  • film AND star OR stern
  • film (star stern)

Note here whether and how a search engine combines the terms, because the search for film AND star OR stern could also be interpreted by a search engine as searching for the terms film and star or for the single term star.

Exclude terms (NOT)

Use the word NOT (in capitals) or the minus sign to get only hits that include the first search term but not the second.

  • star NOT trek
  • star -trek

Note that some search engines do not consider the word NOT as "exclude terms" and instead search for the German word "Not".

Please also note that you can use NOT to exclude pages that actually match your search query. A page with the title "This is about Star Wars not Star Trek" would still not be found with the search for star -trek because the word trek appears on the page.

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