Searching the Online Catalog at TCU

Charles Bellinger

To access the TCU Library Catalog, go to Then click on "Library Catalog," then "More catalog search options."   This leads to three options: Basic Search; Advanced Search; Expert Search.

Basic Search

Words anywhere: type in whatever you want; results may not be very focused.
Title begins with ...: omit initial articles such as the, a, an. Example: [ wizard of oz ] leads to a browse list of titles.
Title word(s): type in words from a title in no particular order. Leads to a set of records rather than a browse list of titles. Example: [ oz wizard rainbow ].
Author (last name first): [ twain, mark ] or [ twain mark ] (comma is not necessary; capitalization is not necessary).
Author word(s): type in names last name first or first name first. Example: [ toni craven ].
Subject heading: not recommended unless you already know the correct Library of Congress heading you are looking for. Example: [ kierkegaard ] leads to a browse list of subject headings.
Subject word(s): if you want to try guessing. A more effective approach is to find books using a "Title word(s)" or "Words anywhere" search and then click on the subject headings within the records of particular books you are interested in.

Under "Format" searches may be limited to Online Books, DVDs, CDs, etc.

Advanced Search

Offers three boxes in which you can put information: Title word(s), Author word(s), Subject word(s), Publisher word(s), Place of publication word(s). Limits can be applied by language, year, and location (such as Brite Library).

Expert Search

Ignore this button.

Examples of searching strategies:

There are two basic reasons for searching the catalog: 1) When you know what you are looking for, 2) When you don't know what you are looking for.

1) When you already know the title of the book you are looking for and you just want to see if it is in this library, if it is checked out, and what the call number is, you can do a title or author search. For a title search, omit words such as "the" and "a" at the beginning of the title (and their foreign language equivalents). For example, if you are looking for The Roman Empire and the New Testament, by Warren Carter, you would go to "Basic Search," then change the field to "Title begins with ..." then type in [ roman empire and the ne] and click on the Search button. Notice that you don't need to capitalize and you don't need the whole title. Another approach would be to leave the field on "Words anywhere" and type in [ carter roman new ] or [ testament empire carter ]. Notice that word order does not matter.

If you are looking for works by an author, you should change the field to "Author (last name first)." Example: [ mcfague sal ] leads to a browse list of names.

You can search for a journal title by changing the field to "Journal/Serial name begins with...". For example, there is a journal called Modern Theology. After changing the field, you would type in [ modern theology ] and click the Search button.


2) When you don't know a specific title or author, but are interested in finding out what books have been written on a certain subject, then you need to do a subject search. When books are published, they are given one or more subject headings which describe their contents. These subject headings are what librarians call "controlled vocabulary." A book's title is "uncontrolled vocabulary," meaning that it may or may not accurately describe the contents of the book. Subject headings are a specific list of terms that are used by catalogers to describe the contents of a book with some degree of accuracy and predictability. So if you are researching a certain topic, you need to figure out what are the right subject headings (or "tags" in current lingo) for your topic. You probably won't know this initially.

For this kind of search, you can try to guess the correct term, and then do a subject search. For example, on a Basic Search screen, you could change the field to "Subject headings," type in [ latin america ], and then click on the Search button. This will give you a list of subject headings that begin with Latin America, along with the number of books given that heading.

You can also start with a keyword search to find relevant books, then notice the subject headings assigned to them. A "Words anywhere" search for [ feminist theology ] would put you on the right track if that was your topic. This search looks for the word feminist and the word theology anywhere in a cataloging record. To narrow the search a bit, you can put a phrase in quotes: [ "feminist theology" ]. This search looks for the word feminist directly in front of the word theology in a record.

From your list of results, you would find the ones that look most relevant to your interests, and then notice what subject headings have been assigned to them by looking at the records for the individual books. If you already know of a relevant book and want to find others that are similar, you can look at the back of the title page, and you will probably find the subject headings. If you don't have the book with you, you can look it up in the catalog. For instance, you know of a book called The Religious Imagination of American Women by Mary Farrell Bednarowski, and want to find similar books on women, feminism, and theology. You can locate that book using an author or a title search, then you can click on any of the subject headings, which will be underlined links. This will take you to a listing of all of the books that TCU owns that have that subject heading.

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