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Penn State University Libraries

Quick Guide to Searching the CAT


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To use The CAT, visit the University Libraries’ home page ( and click on the link marked “Search the CAT.” CAT Help pages: Click "Help" in the blue menu bar at the top of any CAT screen.

For an easy-print version of this information, download the PDF: Quick Guide to Searching the CAT.


Quick Search


The “Quick Search” screen allows you to select from a powerful array of searches. From one screen it is possible to perform any of the main search types: keyword, browse, or exact search. This enables you to easily select the search most appropriate to your needs.


Use Quick Search when you have a basic topic in mind, and want to get results quickly. Advanced Search should be used for more complex searches. Quick Search performs three types of searches: Keyword, Browse and Exact.

  • Choose Keyword to find a word or phrase anywhere.
  • Choose Begins with (Browse) to search a series of words sequentially.
  • Choose Exact to search an exact title, author, or subject.

To begin a quick search:

  1. Type the word(s) or phrase you’re looking for in the box provided. Note: You can use Connectors (AND, OR, NOT) by typing them directly into your search box.
  2. Select the type of search that you want to do (Keyword, Browse or Exact).
  3. From the dropdown menu, select the kind of search you want to do: Keywords Anywhere (Searches the entire record); Topic: Title + Subject; Author; Title; Journal Title; Series; LC Subject Heading or Medical Subject Header, or ISBN
  4. Select a Library to limit your search to a specific library location, if you desire. “All” will search the entire PSU Libraries collections at all locations.
  5. Click the Search button to begin your search. Sample Quick Search:
Quick Search
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Search for Books

How Do I Search for Books?

Do you know the Title of the book?

On the Quick Search screen, select “Title“ from the drop down menu located next to the search box. Enter the title of the book in the search box. Click on the radio button marked “Begins with (Browse)“ above the search box.

if you know the title
Are you unsure of the exact title?

On the Quick Search screen, select ”Title” from the drop down menu located next to the search box. Enter the title word(s) that you know for the item in the search box. Click on the radio button marked “Keyword“ above the search box.

unsure of exact title
Do you know an Author and part of the Title?

Go to Advanced Search. (The advanced search link is located on the right side of the main search page in The CAT.)

Enter the title word(s) in the first box. Select ”Title” from the drop-down menu next to the search box. Enter the author’s last name in the next box down. Select “Author” from the drop-down menu next to the search box. Click ”Search.”

Author and Title search
Are you looking for books on a Topic?

On the Quick Search screen, select “Topic: Title & Subject” from the drop down menu located next to the search box.

Enter your topic word(s) in the search box. Click on the radio button marked “Keyword” above the search box.

search on Topic: Title & Subject
How can I tell if the item is on the shelf?

details button for more informationIf your search has found two or more items: Click on the ”Details” button beside a record that you are interested in to see more information about the item. On the ”Details” page for the specific item, look at the bottom of the record to see whether the item is available or is checked out. Unless the item has a due date listed, it should be on the shelf at the location indicated.

how can I tell if an item is on the shelf

The I Want It button to reserve an itemIf the item is available, you will want to note the call number and location. If the item is not available or is held at another location, click on the “I want it” button to place a hold on the item or to have it sent from another campus.

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Search for Journals

How Do I Search for Journals?

Do you know the NAME of the journal?

Note: You can find the titles of journals in the CAT, but not the individual articles within the journals. If you are searching for journal articles on a specific topic, go to the Libraries’ homepage ( and choose Find Research Guides by Subject. When you find your subject research guide, you will find a list of the databases you can use to find articles.

At the Quick Search screen, type the journal name in the search box, and select “Journal Title“ from the drop-down
menu. Then, click the “Begins With (Browse)“ radio button. The CAT will retrieve journal titles that begin with the words you type.

Journal title search
Exact journal title searching

Another option is to select the “Exact” radio button. In Quick Search, type the journal name in the search box, and select “Journal Title“ from the drop-down menu. Then, click the “Exact“ radio button.

One-Word Titles: “Exact” is especially useful if the journal’s title consists of one very common word, such as
Science, Cell, or Time. “Exact” allows you to search only for journals that specifically match on the words you type. Keep in mind that you may still have to scroll down through the list of search results to find the specific journal title
that you are seeking.

exact journal title search

Are you looking for journals on a particular SUBJECT?

First, go to the Advanced Search screen. There, type your subject word(s) in the first search box and select “Topic: Title + Subject” from the drop-down menu. Then, select “Periodicals” from the “Material Type” drop-down menu at the bottom of the screen.

Advanced search - materials type
Once I find journals in The CAT, how do I access them?

Online Content: If the journal is available electronically, there will often be a direct link, labeled “Online Content.” Click this link to go to the database featuring the journal. Print Format: At the journal’s detailed screen, look at the “Locations” area of the record to see where bound and unbound issues of the journal are kept in the library. Note the call number for the bound volume(s).

Are you looking for ONLINE journals?

Other ways to find online journals include Citation Linker and the E-Journal List which can be found on the Libraries’
homepage (

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Advanced Search

Use the Advanced Search screen to take advantage of these advanced searching capabilities

Boolean Searching

BOOLEAN Operators enable you to narrow or expand your results.

  • AND Narrows: The terms you use must both occur in the same work, although they can occur in different fields (such as in Author and Subject fields).
  • OR Expands: The terms you use can occur in the same or different works. Either term will be retrieved.
  • NOT Narrows: Discards any record containing the word you specify using NOT. (e. g. Depression NOT economic)
Phrase Searching ‘ ’

Phrase Searching will retrieve your search terms in the order you typed them.

  • Use Phrase Searching when you are trying to link two or more common words that may have different meanings when separated.
  • To search for a phrase on the quick search page, enclose the phrase in single quotes.
  • Example: Using ‘women engineers’ will search the exact phrase (women engineers)

With allows you to search for terms in the same sentence of the same field (e.g. title, series, subject) in the record.

Truncation $
  • Truncation searches for documents containing variations on a search term. The CAT uses a “$” as the “wildcard” which represents a single character, many characters, or no characters.
  • Use truncation when your search yields no or too few results, or if you want to conduct a more comprehensive search.
  • Example: Using environment$ will search environment, environments, environmental, and environmentally
  • The Limit option allows you to restrict your search to particular criteria that you specify – such as date, language, where it is located, or what type of material (book, video, score, juvenile material, etc…) it is.
  • Use Limit when you get too many results, or find many of your results to be irrelevant, due to age, language, location or type.
Nesting ( )
  • Nesting utilizes parentheses to clarify relationships between search terms. Generally the items in parentheses are linked by “OR.”
  • Use parentheses ( ) to group or nest search terms together.
  • Example: Using (Iraq or Kuwait) and oil will search Iraq or Kuwait first
Substitution ?
  • A Question Mark substitutes a single character in a keyword search.
  • Use ? when you are unsure of a spelling or when you want to find two forms of one word.
  • Example: Using wom?n will search woman and women
Publication Date
  • 1980-2005 for dates between 1980 and 2005
  • >1980 for dates after 1980 (retrieves 1981 to present)
  • <1990 for dates previous to 1990 (retrieves 1989 and earlier)
  • <=1900 for dates published in 1900 and earlier (“less than or equal to” 1900)
  • >=1900: for dates published in 1900 and after (“greater than or equal to” 1900)
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