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Search Strategies: Using the Discovery Catalog

Introduction to the Discovery Catalog

CST uses WorldCat Discovery, the catalog user interface of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) as our primary searchable catalog. To start searching Discovery, click here.

In Discovery, patrons can search the CST Library holdings simultaneously with the holdings of other WorldCat libraries around the world.

Through the CST Library catalog, you can find the call numbers and other locational information for the library's print books and journals, folios and rare books, and DVD and CD-ROM holdings. You can also find the call numbers for books held by the libraries of the Center for Process Studies and the Disciples Seminary Foundation.

The majority of our digital collection, including the collections of the Digital Theological Library and the Open-Access Digital Theological Library, is also discoverable through the catalog.

The catalog does not contain records of archival collections or some other special materials. Please contact a library staff person for access to materials like these.

To access reserve lists for your courses, click on "Course Reserves" on right side of the top bar in Discovery, and search for your course by its title or the professor's last name. For more information about course reserves, see the FAQ here

Search Term Syntax

The Discovery catalog uses Boolean syntax to conduct searches. Unlike Google, which uses algorithms to predict which results might be most useful for an individual user, the catalog reads your search terms according to a precise logic. The more you know about how Boolean syntax works, the better your searches will be. The Topics and Searches tab of this guide will help you construct searches, but here is a list of strategies and best practices to help you get the most out of your search terms.

Basic Rules

  • Spelling matters. The catalog will look for your search terms as you have typed them.
  • The catalog reads any string of words outside of quotation marks as a list of keywords. If you only want to search for a precise phrase, put it in quotation marks so that the catalog will search for the phrase as a unit rather than a collection of possible terms.
  • The catalog will ignore many common, small words, such as articles (the, a, an), the verb "be" and many of its conjugations (is, are, am, etc.), and many prepositions (of, in, on, etc.) unless they are part of a phrase in quotation marks.
  • Searches are not case-sensitive. The catalog will not differentiate between capital and lowercase letters. Boolean operators (see below) are often shown in full caps so they are easy to see.
  • You do not need to include punctuation, accents, or special characters such as ø. The catalog will find the same author whether you search for Birgitte Bøgh or Birgitte Bogh (but you should always cite your authors as precisely as possible).

Boolean Operators

  • AND tells the system to look for records that contain all of the words joined by AND. The phrase Judaism AND liturgy will return only records that contain both the words "Judaism" and "liturgy." If you simply type a list of words, the system will read them as if you have used AND. The phrase Judaism liturgy Purim is the same as Judaism AND liturgy AND Purim.
  • OR tells the system to look for records that contain any of the words joined by OR. The phrase liturgy OR ritual will return records that contain either of those words, or both.
  • NOT tells the system to exclude records that contain the word after NOT. The phrase Judaism NOT liturgy will return searches that contain the word "Judaism," but filter out the ones that also contain the word "liturgy." You can also use a minus sign (-) instead of NOT.
  • Parentheses tell the system to apply the preceding operator to all of the words inside the parentheses. Use parentheses to make your searches more specific or more broad. The phrase Judaism AND (liturgy OR ritual) will return records that contain the word "Judaism" and either or both of the words "liturgy" and "ritual."
  • An asterisk tells the system to search for any words that begin with the letters preceding the asterisk. A search for Christ* will return records that contain the words "Christ," "Christian," "Christianity," "Christmas," etc.

You can use these operators by themselves or in combination to create searches that are as broad or specific as you need. Keep in mind that the more specific a search is, the fewer results you'll get back. Vary your search terms as much as possible, and conduct both broad and specific searches, to get the best coverage of the literature on your topic.

Narrowing Your Searches

To limit searches by item type, date, library, etc., you can use the drop-down menus in the Advanced Search option before conducting your search, or you can use the checkbox menu to the left side of the search results. This is very helpful if you are looking for items from a certain time period (such as very recent materials), or if you are looking specifically for journal articles.

For digital materials, it is best NOT to select "Downloadable Article" or "ebook" from the checklist. Many digital materials have item records that identify them as print materials for the purposes of the sorting tool. Instead, select the top-level option for the format you need (e.g., "Article, Chapter" or "Book") and look for the green button in the item record that says, "View full text," "Access online," etc. If you are searching exclusively for digital materials (for example, if you do not live locally to the CST library), you can also search the catalog of the Digital Theological Library ( CST has access to all of its digital materials through the DTL, so searching that site instead of the CST catalog will return the same results minus physical materials. The DTL also uses WorldCat Discovery, so the instructions for using that catalog are the same as for CST's.

Finding Book Reviews

Book reviews can be useful resources for deciding whether a book will be helpful for your research, or situating it within the scholarly discourse of its field. WorldCat does not have a way to search specifically for book reviews--they are classified as articles. However, you can find and identify them.

  • Start by searching for the book. For example, if you wanted to find reviews of Roland Faber's book God as Poet of the World, you could do a title search on the Advanced Search page, or search for the phrase faber god poet world or faber "god as poet of the world" with the quotation marks. 
  • In the left column, under "Formats," select "Article, Chapter."
  • Look for articles that have the exact title of the book, and that give the author's name as part of the article title (e.g., "God as Poet of the World by Roland Faber" or "R. Faber: God as Poet of the World") and/or as one of the article's authors.
  • Many major academic journals publish reviews, so you can't necessarily tell whether an article is a review based on where it was published. However, there are a few journals, such as Currents in Biblical Research and Religious Studies Review, that publish primarily or exclusively book reviews, book notes, and state-of-the-question articles.