Searching in WorldCat® Discovery and interface features


Expert searches and query syntax
Frequently used indexes and syntax
FirstSearch & WorldCat Discovery differences
Record display of item bibliographic data

Options on the "Advanced Search" screen
Dropdown lists & indexes in Advanced Search
Limiters in Advanced Search
Add and remove databases to searches
Create an Advanced Search URL

Embed a search box & use parameters
Embed a search box on your website
Search box examples
Parameters and Target IDs

Modify search results using filters
Filters on the left of the results screen

Email records, create citations and share record links
Sharing, citation and list icons, My Items and My Personal Lists

Staff view of WorldCat Discovery
About staff features

Looking for more information? See related documentation and training topics. Recorded tutorials on searching are available on the WorldCat Discovery training page.

Expert searches and query syntax

About searching

Although the default search from the search box automatically applies the keyword index, it is easy to construct a more nuanced search using indexes and Boolean operators. An "index" is defined as two characters followed by a colon or by an equal sign (for example "ti:"). Use a colon to search for the words anywhere in the specified index and an equal sign to perform a phrase search.

In WorldCat Discovery, searches that contain index labels and Boolean operators can be entered in any search box including those on the Advanced Search screen. Please note that if you use an index for one search term in the box, you must use index labels for all search terms.

Frequently used indexes and syntax:

Boolean operators
WorldCat Discovery supports the use of (AND, OR, NOT). Boolean operators must be capitalized.

Index labels combined with Boolean operators can be entered in any search box in including the multiple search boxes on the Advanced Search screen. Boolean searches are processed in left to right order.

Approximate term queries
There are three operators for approximate term queries: asterisk(*), and question mark(?) or pound sign(#):

Enter the first three characters of the term (at a minimum) and follow with an asterisk (*).

Example of terms in search results: securit-y, securit-ies, or securit-ization
Example of search: securit*

Enter the first three characters of the term (at a minimum) and follow with a wildcard. WorldCat Discovery supports the use of two wildcard characters the pound sign (#) and the question mark (?).

Use the pound sign to represent a single character.
Use the question mark to match missing (zero) and up to nine characters including no additional characters.

Save searches

Users may save up to 100 searches and manage searches from their account page. To save a search, enter a search request in Discovery and then click Save this search in the left navigation bar. A confirmation message will appear.

Navigate to Library Links > Saved searches to view and manage saved searches.

Visit the comprehensive guide, Searching WorldCat Indexes.

FirstSearch & WorldCat Discovery differences

OCLC is synchronizing the use of query syntax and index labels across all WorldShare products and interfaces. Therefore, there are some differences between FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery.  

FirstSearch to WorldCat Discovery
Index in WorldCat Discovery
Format/document type (dt:)
Use x0: and x4: (See Searching WorldCat Indexes Searching WorldCat Indexes Format/Document Type for more information)
ISBN (number search)
Use bn:
Index label is optional
Hyphen is optional
ISSN (number search)
Use in:
Index label is optional
Hyphen is required when using index label
Music/publisher number (number search)
Use mn:
Music/publisher number (number phrase search)
Use mn=
Enter all letters and numbers; concatenate all punctuation and spaces up to a dash or double hyphen.
OCLC Control Number
Use no:
If you start a search with an OCLC number, use an index label for a following search term (unless you enter another OCLC number). See Searching WorldCat Indexes for more information.
Publisher number (number search)
Use mn:
Renamed to Music/publisher number
See above.
Publisher number (number phrase search)
Use mn=
Renamed to Music/publisher number
See above.
To search date ranges, navigate to the "Advanced Search" screen and use the limiters to limit by year. The end year must be four digits.
These types of searches are not supported:

Unsupported query syntax
  • OCLC number searches must include an index label; The use of the pound sign (#) is no longer supported.
  • Index browsing is not available.
  • Whole phrase search index labels are not available.
  • Plurals (e.g. "giraffe+") are not available. They are replaced by stemming.
  • Proximity operators ("with," "w," "near," and "n") are not available. Proximity is also called adjacency. Note that the words "with" and "near" can be searched if surrounded by quotations or in an unbounded phrase search.

Record display of item bibliographic data

See how WorldCat Discovery displays item bibliographic data for records in your search results.

Options on the "Advanced Search" screen

Dropdown lists & indexes in Advanced Search

Link to the Advanced Search screen
Link to the Advanced Search screen

Navigate to the Advanced Search screen by clicking on Advanced Search below the search bar in your interface. You will see multiple search boxes and the button to add or remove databases.

Indexes related to all the databases being searched and the most used WorldCat indexes are available in the Advanced Search dropdown lists. Phrase indexes are in the dropdown lists or you can enter them with an index label.

All indexes are available to you. See the comprehensive guide, Searching WorldCat Indexes.

The default indexes for most collections will appear in the following order:

If a database does not have the title index, the substitute is keyword. If neither Title nor Keyword is available, then the first index in alphabetical order displays.

Add search fields with +Add row. When you add a search box, the default index is keyword. If keyword is not available for that database, then the first index in alphabetical order displays.

Please note that available indexes are specific to collections. Thus, while you are performing searches, changing databases could result in a selected index no longer being valid or available for the databases selected.

Limiters in Advanced Search

Within Advanced Search, options to limit your search are available at the bottom of the screen. The available limiters depend on what content you are searching: a single database, multiple databases, WorldCat, and so forth. Note that Year and Location (Libraries Worldwide, etc.) are always available.

Note: Search terms, indexes, and limiters do not persist when navigating from search results back to Advanced Search.

When searching a single database, limiters will appear in the following order (if they are available):

 - Peer review
 - Format
 - Year
 - Language
 - Any other limiters in any order
 - Location

When searching multiple databases, limiters will appear in the following order:

 - Peer review (if available)
 - Format (as represented in
 - Year
 - Location


Add and remove databases to searches

By default, some or all of a library's databases that are available in WorldCat Discovery will be selected. To view the default selections or to modify the selections for your search, navigate to the Advanced Search screen and click Add or remove databases. When the database selection panel is open, it displays an A to Z list of all of the databases available.

Database search options on the Advanced Search screen

Databases (A)
On the Advanced Search screen, you can see which databases are being searched by default. You can deselect databases to exclude them from your search and you can add databases that are available but are not searched by default. See the WorldCat Discovery settings and customizations page and see the section Select default databases for your your search box  for instructions to modify your library's administrative settings (in OCLC Service Configuration).

Database groups (B)
If you have configured database groups, you will see them listed on the Advanced Search screen. See the Select default databases for your your search box section on the Settings and Configuration page for details on administrative settings for database groups.

The Reset link restores the selections to the default databases as defined in the administrative settings.

Question mark icons
Database descriptions are displayed by clicking the question mark icon beside database names. Descriptions are supplied by OCLC and cannot be changed by individual libraries. Descriptions are displayed in the language of the browser or of the locale. Databases show a lock icon if authentication is required to access content.

Create an Advanced Search URL

You can create URLs that link directly to your library's Advanced Search screen. The URL can include either a single database or a group of databases.

To create an Advanced Search URL:

  1. Use this base template and replace my-library with your library's WorldCat Discovery prefix:
  1. Find the Target IDs for the databases you want to include in the WorldCat Discovery content list (.xlsx).
  2. Enter the Target IDs after the equal sign (=) in the base template. If you are including multiple Target IDs, separate each Target ID with %2C.

Example URL with Target IDs for Academic OneFile, Gale Virtual Reference Library, and ProQuest Newsstand:

When a patron clicks on the URL you constructed, they will be taken to your library's Advanced Search screen, and they will be able to search through the databases you selected in step 2. For more information on Target IDs, see Parameters and Target IDs, below.

Embed a search box & use parameters

Embed a search box on your website

You can embed a search box on your library's website and have options to tailor it for your patrons' needs. A basic search box will mimic the behavior of the search box on the homepage of your Discovery interface:

  • The search will be keyword
  • It will search your default databases
  • You can use search labels and query syntax in the search box as desired

Note that you will always need to encode parameter values.  For example, "databaseList=2198%2C3561" is encoded and "databaseList=2198,3561" needs encoding.

When using multiple format parameters, send in each format individually instead of as a list.  For example, "format=Book,Music,Video" should be three separate parameters: "format=book&format=music&format=video".

Search box examples

See the examples to help you consider possibilities for your library. The examples use some of the parameters and target IDs as discussed below. Look to the Community Center for examples used by libraries.

Collection Manager interface

See example code. Please note that the code is meant to provide a visual example for demonstration only. It is not necessarily viable.

Note that you can view the code for the .html page. Click the link to open the .html page. Right click anywhere in the body of the page and select "view page source" (or another similar option offered with our browser).

Please share with the community
Because of the large variety of website applications and code languages used by libraries, OCLC Support is NOT able offer assistance in creating embedded search boxes. If you have configured a search box and are willing to share your success with other libraries, please consider posting your example to the OCLC Community Center. Likewise, you can start a discussion to ask the community and share your library's needs.

You could also consider contacting your web or technology department or exploring resources like

Parameters and Target IDs

Database parameters
You can configure your search box to query a particular database or group of databases (that differ from your default database selections). Limiting searches to particular databases requires database Target IDs. Find Target IDs in the WorldCat Discovery content list (.xlsx).

Target IDs
The Target ID is a number assigned to each collection. You can use the Target ID as a reference number when you configure access to the databases you subscribe to, when you are configuring your WorldCat Discovery search box, and when you read Google Analytics or custom reports.

Users can also modify the databases used for a search by editing the database Target ID(s) in the URL. This option is especially useful if you perform a search and then wish to quickly modify the database(s) you are searching. Target IDs are included in the content list.

Note that if you add or change a database via adding or changing a target ID in the URL, your new database selection(s) will display as a selected database in search results and in Advanced Search.

Example Target IDs and associated collections:

1271 Business Source Complete; 1708 Academic Search Complete; 1953 ERIC

URL after searching Business Source Complete:

The URL can be modified to add a second and a third database to the search. The Target IDs are separated by %2C as shown:


Sort parameters

Select a default sort parameter.

Sort option Sort value
Best Match
Author (A-Z) AUTHOR
Date (Oldest First) DATE
Date (Newest First) DATE_D
Title (A-Z) TITLE

Scope parameters

Scope option Scope value
Level 1 (your library) MY_LIBRARIES
Level 2 (consortium or group) LEVEL2_LIBRARIES
Level 3 (second consortium or group) LEVEL3_LIBRARIES
Libraries Worldwide ALL_LIBRARIES

Example URLs
Search query without parameters:

Search queries that include parameters for database, sort and/or scope:

Modify your search results

Using filters on the left of the results screen

You can narrow the set of results that were returned from your initial search by using the filters available in the left column of the results screen. Simply check the boxes beside the filter(s) you desire.

Filters can be used multiple times throughout a search session.  Your filters can be reapplied to preserve your search context without manually having to select them for each additional search in a single session.  

Filters in the Discovery interface
Section Filters allow you to:   Notes:
Sort by:
Change the sort order of the results

Sort options:

  • Best Match blends Title, Author, Date and Worldwide Holdings with an emphasis placed on Title.
  • Recency blends Date, Title, Author and Worldwide Holdings with an emphasis placed on date.
  • Library considers individual holdings first and then blends Title, Author, date and Worldwide Holdings.
  • Author (A to Z) sorts by special characters or numbers in the first name, then A to Z by last name.
  • Date (Newest) sorts chronologically by date with newest items listed first.
  • Date (Oldest) sorts chronologically by date with oldest items listed first.
  • Most Widely Held presents an "unclustered" view of search results with an emphasis on Worldwide Holdings in a blend of Date, Title, and Author.
  • Title sorts by special characters, then alphabetically by title. Only the article "the" is ignored.
Change the library/libraries searched  
Limit to Full Text or Peer Reviewed articles
The "Content" section is available only if your search results include articles
Limit to a particular format  
Limit to results from a single database Information about the various databases can be found on the WorldCat Discovery Content List.
Select works by one or more authors  
Year:  Narrow the results to the last 5 years, choose a custom year range, or search a single year To search a single year, you must type the year in both fields. For example: from 2015 to 2015
Language:  Filter for results in a particular language  

The "Selected Filters" area contains options to remove the specified filters from the search and to reset the search to the configured defaults.

Email records, create citations and share record links


Cite, link, email and save icons 

After you perform a search in WorldCat Discovery, items in your search results will include icons for users to quickly add records to a list, email a record or a list of records, copy a record link, or export a citation. The icons are available from the brief results, the action panel, and on the detailed record (mobile view). The sharing icon is available when users view the page showing a list they have created. The option to email a record is not available on the MARC record.

The Cite icon allows you to:

Format a citation
Generate and copy a citation in ACS, AMA, APA, ASA, Bluebook, Chicago, CSE, Harvard, MLA or Turabian style.

Export a citation
Cite the record using EndNote, RefWorks or RIS.

The Link icon allows you to:

Record link (permalink)
Record link opens a pop-up window with the permalink displayed. Copy and share the link.

The Email icon allows you to:

Email record
Choose Email to share a single record by providing an email address. Note that you also have the option to add a record to a list and email the list at the end of your session.

The Save icon allows you to:

Add record information to My List. Email a list to yourself or share it with others. Records added to a list are stored temporarily for the session until the session times out.

What is included when users save or email a record or a list of records?
Each record users email will contain the following information, if available:

Publication date
Peer-review indicator
OCLC number
Database name
Item "held by" information
Call Numbers (Note: Call Numbers only display if your library is using WorldShare Management Services or WorldCat Local.)

Note: When users view an emailed list, records appear in the order displayed in the search results/database. Thus, results might not display in the order that matches the sequence with which users added them to a list.

My Items and My Personal Lists

Users can save up to 100 records in a list by clicking on the Save icon that appears next to the item. When users reach the limit, the interface displays text as a warning message: "Your list is full. Please remove records from your list or clear your list to add more records." Users can close the message and continue to search; However, they will not be able to add another record to the list until one or more records are removed.

Users can remove one record at a time by using the icon beside each record. Users can delete all records in the list by clicking Select All, then clicking the Delete icon. Privacy notice: If you are using a public computer and you leave the terminal, your list will be visible to others until the session times out.

To clear entries from your temporary list:

  1. Select individual items to be removed from the list or click the box to Select All.
  2. Click the Delete icon.
  3. A message opens to confirm this action.
  4. Click Delete Records to continue or Cancel to return to the list.

Library staff has the option to sign in to the WorldCat Discovery interface to use features that are not available to patrons. One of the features is the ability to create and save personal lists from Details about the staff view including how to create an account are outlined below. Once a staff account is created and used to log on, follow these steps to create and save a personal list or to import a list from

To create an save a personal list:

  1. Search for the items you would like to include in a list. 
  2. Click the Save icon to add the citation to the list.
  3. When finished, click My Items in the upper right corner to display the list.
  4. Click on the Create List icon.
  5. Provide a List Name (required) and List Description (optional).
  6. Click Save.

To import lists from to WorldCat Discovery so they are easier to manage in one place:

  1. Log on to WorldCat to view your lists.
  2. Click a list name to view its details.
  3. Click the Export to CSV link.
  4. Save the file where you can find it later.
  5. Go to WorldCat Discovery and use your staff account to log on.
  6. Click your account name to display a drop down list and select Import My list.
  7. Provide a List Name (required) and List Description (optional).
  8. Click Browse to locate the file to be imported.
  9. Once the file is displayed, click Import List to begin the import process.
  10. Click Save.
  11. The list will be added to My Personal Lists. To view your lists, click on your library drop-down menu in the upper right corner and select My Personal Lists.

To move items from My Personal Lists or My Items to a Personal List:

  1. Go to the list containing items you want to move.
  2. Click the check box next to the items you want to move, or select all by checking the Select All box.
  3. Click the Move icon.
  4. A Move Records window opens. Select the list to which you want to move the items.
  5. Click Select List.

To share a personal list:

  1. Go to Library - My Personal Lists to locate the list you want to share.
  2. Click on the Email button below the list name.
  3. Enter the email address for the recipient of the list. Note: Lists can only be shared with one recipient at a time.
  4. Click Email List. The saved list is sent to the recipient.

Cite multiple items from My Items or My Personal Lists:

  1. Go to the list containing items you want to cite.
  2. Click the check box next to the items you want to create citations for or check the Select All box.
  3. Click the Cite icon. A Cite List window appears.
  4. Select the citation style. The citations appear in a Copy & Paste box.
  5. Export the citations by clicking on one of the Export options or copy and paste them from the text box.

Staff features in WorldCat Discovery

About staff features

Library staff has the option to Sign In to the WorldCat Discovery interface in order to benefit from the staff features that are not visible to patrons. The staff view of WorldCat Discovery includes the:

  • OCLC number in the brief record shown in search results
  • Option to display the MARC record (available for libraries that maintain up-to-date holdings in WorldCat and have an OCLC cataloging or CatExpress subscription)
  • Ability to search by and see holding libraries’ OCLC symbols
  • Staff view of WorldShare ILL (if applicable)

For information on creating accounts for your staff members, see Create users in the WorldShare Admin Online Help.

To manage accounts in WorldShare, see User Management.
Need help? Contact OCLC Order Services. If your library does NOT have a WorldCat Discovery URL, please see the information on the Ordering page.

Related documentation and training

See the documentation and training pages for a complete list of support materials.

If you have questions, contact your regional support office or visit us in WorldCat Discovery office hours as detailed on the support home page.