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Penn State University Libraries

LionSearch Help

General Information


LionSearch is a single search box for finding the combined resources provided by the Penn State University Libraries. The results are compiled from hundreds of databases  and the Penn State University Libraries large catalog of books and other resources.The software, called Summon, is licensed from Serials Solutions and provides a single gateway to search the extensive electronic resources of the Libraries.


LionSearch includes...

  • Records from The CAT (e.g. books, e-books, maps, DVDs, etc.)
  • Electronic resources (e.g. magazine and scholarly journal articles, etc.)
  • Local Penn State collections (e.g. digitiized images)
  • Research guides created by subject specialists

The level of retrieval varies for each resource with some items being fully indexed (e.g., full text searchable) and others only having partial indexing (e.g., basic information only - author, title, publisher, etc.).  A small number of Libraries resources are not indexed by LionSearch


All users are able to use the LionSearch interface however only authorized users will have access to licensed resources.

Mobile devices

LionSearch will recognize your mobile device and provide you with a mobile-friendly version of the site. You can select the Standard Version link on this site if you wish to use the full version.

For more help, see the LionSearch Video Tutorials.


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Searching Basics
  • Begin by typing in a search term in the initial search box in LionSearch. If you prefer to use the advanced search, click the down arrow to the right of the search box.
  • You can select options from the menu on the left hand side of the results screen to refine your search. Popular choices for limiting your results are to select documents that are available with full text online or from scholarly publications or by date.
  • Select as many options as you wish, but allow the screen to refresh between each one; the number of results decreases each time you refine your search.
  • You can also refine your results by Content Type. Click on the word to select specific content types such as journal article, books/eBooks, newspaper article. Clicking on “More” to see a full list of content types. You can try a similar approach by refining by using the Discipline section on the left side of the screen.
  • Use the slider(s) to change the Publication Date range of results.
  • The right side of the screen may occasionally feature more information related to your search to help you explore  it further. Depending on your keywords, you will see information about your topic from sources such as Gale Virtual Reference Library or Wikipedia. You will also see suggestions for related topics you can try searching too.
Phrase Searching

Use quotation marks to search for phrases.  For example, the query “teacher education” will find results with that phrase, not just the words teacher or education anywhere in the document.  The words “teacher education” have to appear together in the document in that order.

Advanced Searching

At higher levels of study and research a strategic approach to searching is needed. The success of your search depends on the keywords that you use.

  • Identify your keywords in your assignment or related to your topic.

  • Use a thesaurus or dictionary to find related or similar terms.

  • Don’t forget to search for people, places and organizations related to your topic.

  • Use acronyms and full names.

  • Expand keywords by thinking holistically about your topic, e.g. computing, information technology, IT.

  • Identify words from different cultures, e.g. rubbish/garbage.

  • Continue to revise your search as needed. Research requires many attempts and approaches to be successful.

Combining keywords using AND, OR, NOT (Boolean searching)

Using AND will narrow a search. The more words or phrases connected by AND the fewer and more specific results retrieved. AND links different con­cepts or terms. Please note that if you don’t use the word AND between terms, LionSearch will add it in automatically.
Note: Use CAPITAL LETTERS when using AND, OR, NOT as Boolean operators in the LionSearch search box.

Boolean AND term Example (students AND reading AND libraries)

The above example will only find items with all three terms in every docu­ment.

Using OR will broaden a search. OR links similar concepts or ideas.

boolean OR example ("climate change" OR "global warming")

The above example will retrieve any item that contains either or both phrases.

NOT narrows a search as it excludes any item containing that specific search term within it.

boolean NOT example ("military history" NOT "world war")

The above example will retrieve all items about military history, except those that mention world wars.

Using wildcards

Wildcards help find alternative spellings and word endings (e.g. woman and women)

  • The question mark character, ?, serves as a wildcard in a term and will match any one character, e.g. to find organ­isation or organization, enter organi?ation (this is useful for including British and American spellings).
  • The asterisk * will match zero or more characters within a word, e.g. a search for behavio*r would find behaviour and behavior.
  • The asterisk * at the end of a word will match all word endings, e.g. a search for manag* would find manage, manages, manager, managing, management, etc.
Advanced search screen

Use the advanced search options (located by clicking the down arrow next to the search box) to be more specific in your search. If you are looking for a specific journal article from a reading list or bibliogra­phy, enter details in the appropriate search boxes.

Example: an article on ritual by Middleton.

example of search for items with a specific author and journal

If you want to look for articles on certain topics which have been published in a specific journal, enter the keywords, along with the publication title.

Example: articles on adolescent crime in the journal Youth & Society 


Example of searching for articles on adolescent crime in the journal Youth & Society
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How to print, email, cite or export your results

To cite, print, or email individual results in LionSearch, hover over the folder icon to the right of each item in your results list. You should see more information in the righthand pane including options to cite, print, or email this item. This brief video shows you this process:

Use the “Save this item” feature that shows up in the top right corner of each record to save multiple items to a temporary folder.  


 Use the “Save this item” feature that shows up in the top right corner of each record to save multiple items to a temporary folder.


Open the  folder (in the top right of the screen) to see a number of options for your list of results. This brief video also explains how to use this folder for multiple results:


Example of "choose a citation format"

LionSearch offers export for many citation managers including the option to export to a Bibtex file which many other citation managers can read.

You can simply print or email your citations by opening your saved items folder, choosing a citation format (if desired), and clicking on the Print or Email buttons.

ProQuest Flow Account

You can also create and use a free ProQuest Flow account to store all your saved items online, manage documents and references, and collaborate with others. You will first need to create a login with your PSU email address by clicking on the Sign Up button and confirm the account by clicking on a confirmation link that is sent to you.

  • To export to EndNote, from your LionSearch results list click the folder next to each item you want to export, then click the saved items folder at the top of the screen. Select EndNote from the drop down menu, then select the radio button for Open with ResearchSoft Direct Export Helper. (Your EndNote program needs to be open.)
  • To export to EndNote Web, from your LionSearch results list click the folder next to each item you want to export, then click the saved items folder at the top of the screen. Select EndNote from the drop down menu, then select the radio button for Save File. Open EndNote Web, and under the Collect tab select Import References. Click Browse and locate your saved file under Downloads on your computer (the file will have a name like export-endnote-12345.ris). Select RefMan RIS from the Import Option drop down menu, then select the folder you want to export to.

To export items to Zotero, try the Export As… option, then select the Endnote option. Zotero for Firefox will import the file with default settings. Zotero standalone software should be able to use this file as well.


Q: My friend and I did the same search but our results were different. What happened?

A: There are several possibilities. Using the copy-and-paste functions will sometimes yield different results from a typed search due to hidden characters in the record. Also, since the LionSearch data is updated frequently, search results will vary over time. Finally, some publishers restrict the amount of information available to off-campus, un-authenticated users, which can have a major impact on your search results.

Q: I am now a student at Hershey. Why do my results look different from when I used LionSearch at Mont Alto?

A: Hershey’s version of LionSearch is slightly different and so your results may vary.

Q: LionSearch says there are more copies of a book but when I follow the link, I just see other volumes? Why?

A: LionSearch cannot discern the difference between volumes and copies. It calls all multiple pieces “copies”.

Q: How do I place a hold on an item in LionSearch?

A: After you identify an item you would like to hold, click on its title in LionSearch. This will take you to the item’s record, where you can then choose the “I Want It” button to place a hold.

For more help, see the LionSearch Video Tutorials.

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Tips and Tricks

  • Find a specific reference by using the Advanced Search by clicking on the down arrow next to the Search button
  • Search by entering your keyword(s) into the search box by using AND, OR, “ ” around a phrase

  • Use CAPITAL LETTERS when using AND, OR, NOT in the LionSearch search box.

  • For Course Reserves, it is better to NOT use LionSearch. It is better to use the Course Reserve Search on our website.

  • If you are searching for a known item, and have a numeric identifier such as an ISBN (for books), ISSN (journals), DOI (articles) or PMID (PubMed citation number), you can plug that number directly into LionSearch and your item should appear fairly close to the top of the results, if not as the only result.

  • If you have an article with a fairly unique title, you can enter that directly into LionSearch to see if we have access.
    “Citation Online” means there is a link to a description of that work whereas “Full Text Online” means you can actually access the work itself.

For more help, see the LionSearch Video Tutorials.

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LionSearch Video Tutorials

LionSearch: Getting Started
(3 minutes)

This video covers:

  • searching topics
  • narrowing results
  • reading articles or books

LionSearch and Your Research Project: Starting
(2 1/2 minutes)

This video covers:

  • scholarly sources
  • specific disciplines
  • saving results

LionSearch and Your Research Project: Finishing
(3 minutes)

This video covers:

  • combining terms
  • finding specific publications
  • output options for the things you find


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