Skip to Main Content

Tips for Using Library Search

Provides some tips and strategies for effectively using the University of Michigan Library search engine.

Note about Local Catalog Subject Headings

The Library is currently fixing offensive or harmful language previously used in descriptions of our catalog resources. (See our policy on Remediation of Harmful Language in Library Metadata for details.) Specifically we're changing subject headings in Library Catalog Search which may be different from subject headings used by other libraries, or by vendors and publishers. To help you search for catalog records that previously displayed harmful subject headings, here is our list of subject headings that were changed locally (i.e. in the U-M catalog). Descriptions in Library Online Journals Search or Library Databases Search may still contain offensive or harmful subject headings.

Other Basic Catalog Search Types

In Library Catalog Search, you can specify unique data fields to search for your terms, such as an author's name, or a journal title. Click on the pull-down menu to select from: Author; Title; Title starts with; Subject; Journal/Serial title; Series; ISSN,ISBN,OCLC, etc.

Screen shot of catalog searching options, with Browse by Call Number selected

Image of Library Catalog Search, with pull-down menu options.

Some selected examples:

  • Select Author and type in the search box an author's name to find works by that author, like Maya Angelou.
  • Use the Title search if you know some of the words in a particular title, but use Title starts with when you definitely know the first few words in the title, in precise order. (E.g. Feeling White Whiteness, Emotionality, and Education)
  • Use Subject words to search for words or phrases in catalog subject fields. This is useful when you know what the item is about but you're not sure of the exact wording of the official subject tag or Library of Congress subject classification. For example, you know that the subject heading of a book includes the words transgender youth but you're not certain of the order of the words in the subject heading or tag.
  • Selecting the Journal/Serial title option allows you to search for words found just in journal or magazine titles, thereby eliminating books, films, etc. (E.g. Asia Pacific Journal)
  • Call number starts with is a useful search field when you know most of a call number of a work (e.g. M 32 .C55 P6)
  • Series search option allows you to search for a group of thematically-related books that all have unique individual titles, such as Springer Tracts in Mechanical Engineering
  • And finally, the ISSN, ISBN, OCLC, etc. type of search allows you to search for a specific unique number associated with a specific work in the catalog. (E.g. 9780231163965)

Searching in Non-Roman Scripts

Generally, for research in non-Roman scripts (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, etc.) romanized searches retrieve the most reliable Library Catalog Search results. Note: Most U-M Library catalog records for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean materials created since the late 1980s contain names and titles in the original non-Roman scripts, and thus can be searched by terms in both romanized forms and East Asian characters. 

The Library of Congress ALA-LC Romanization Tables may help you determine appropriate forms for searching. It may be helpful to search for variations of transliterations, too. Use non-Roman characters in keyword, author, and titles searches for the most effective results.

You can always add other elements to your search for non-English language materials, such as:

  • apply specific language filters
  • apply geographic regions or locations filters in place of publication fields

For expert help in searching non-Roman scripts, please contact a subject specialist (International Studies).

Searching for Recently Added Catalog Items

The default sort order for viewing search results in the library catalog is “by relevance.” To view an ordered list of newly added items to the collections, use the Sort by options found at the top of a results list. From the pull-down menu, select Date added (Newest First).

Image of results sorting for the date an item was added to the catalog.

Bookmark or copy the URL of the results page after you’ve sorted it to create a bookmarkable page of new items.

When you visit that saved URL later, you’ll continue to see new items at the top of your results list. 

Searching for Audio Books

If you want to find audio books in our collections, but don't have a specific title in mind, we recommend trying one of the following techniques in the Library Catalog Search advanced search form:

Additionally, we recommend browsing the Overdrive collection, a database of e-books and audio books primarily on the topics of popular literature, graphic novels and non-fiction from trade publishers.

Searching for U-M Dissertations

The best method to find a dissertation that was completed at the University of Michigan is to search for a specific author and title in the Library Catalog. If you don't have a specific citation in mind, you can search for the Call Number starts with field for DISS. Then filter the catalog results by academic discipline, subject, or publication year.

The best source of full-text versions of U-M dissertations is Deep Blue Documents, the Library's digital institutional repository. The Dissertations & Theses Collection can be browsed by author, title, subject, or date.