• Using FirstSearch

Using OCLC FirstSearch

FirstSearch is a Web-based information system for searching online databases. A database is a collection of related resources on a specific topic or from a specific source. Each entry in a database is called a record.

FirstSearch screens and functions

Move through FirstSearch screens and functions using the navigation tabs. Each tab displays context-sensitive links for additional options. For example, in the figure below, the List of Records screen displays as the active option on the Results tab. The Detailed Record and Marked Records options appear as links to additional screens that are also available on the Results tab.

Check the control panel below the navigation tabs for status information and specialized tools such as Sort and Help.

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Additional tip:

  • Click the Help button to browse the context-sensitive online help in a pop-window.

Selecting a database

FirstSearch provides three options for selecting a database on the Databases tab:

  • The List Databases by Topic option groups databases by topic area.
  • The List All Databases option displays a merged list of all databases.
  • If you need help selecting a database, use the Suggest Best option to scan databases for your key search term(s). You can then select the databases that contain the highest estimated results for your key term(s).

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The Database list

Select—Click the checkbox in front of each database you would like to search (up to three). A default database may be pre-selected. If you do not want to include the default database in your search, click the checkbox in the first column to de-select it.

Est. Results—Displays estimated results for key terms (appears only on the Suggest Best screen).

Database—Displays the name of the database. Click to search in just one database.

Description—Displays a short description of the database.

Info—Click the Info button to view detailed information on the database.

Updated—Displays the date on which the database was last updated.

Full text—Displays the Full Text icon if online full text is available.


Basic Search

The Basic Search screen allows you to search the main indexes in a database. Use the Basic search if you are new to online searching or if you need quick results using a simple search statement.

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Advanced Search

The Advanced Search screen lets you construct more complex search statements. Up to three search strings and three indexes can be combined using Boolean operators ( AND , OR , and NOT ) selected from drop-down menus. More search limits are available at this level.

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Expert Search

The Expert Search screen is designed for experienced searchers who prefer to enter logical search strings. Reference information on constructing a search is displayed at the bottom of the screen. A list of indexes and index labels is provided in a single drop-down menu. For example, to search for all resources related to coffee that are written by Elizabeth Alston, you can enter alston elizabeth and kw:coffee and select the author index from the drop-down menu. The author index will apply only to the unlabeled terms alston elizabeth.

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Other search features:

  • Browse the indexes to verify the correct spelling or format for search terms. Click the Index button to access the Browse Index feature.
  • Browse subject headings to find additional terms that may apply to your search. Click the Subjects button to access the Subject Headings list. This feature is available only in certain databases.
  • Use ranking to organize the results of your search. Available options vary by database.

Search statements

Search statements are made up of search terms combined with special search characters or labels and Boolean operators.

Building search statements

To search for




subject information any word or words frost many results (common word)
sangfroid few results (rare word)
categories of information index labels su:sleepti:once subject sleep, once in titles
exact phrase quotes " " "tunnel vision" tunnel vision
plurals plus sign + plant+ plant, plants, plants', plant's, plantes, plantes'
variants or part of a word wildcard *, #, or ? zebu* zebu, zebulon, zebutte
all words AND cold AND zinc cold and zinc
one or all words OR cold OR zinc cold, zinc, and cold and zinc
one word but not another NOT cold NOT weather cold but not cold weather
words near each other, given order w cold w2 common cold followed within 2 words by common
words near each other, any order n cold n3 common cold and common, within 3 words of each other

Using index labels

Use an index label and

when your search includes


colon ( : ) individual words or fragments of phrases kw:airline security
search operators ( w or n) kw:alcohol w2 fetal
other special search characters, such as the plus sign (+) or asterisk (*) ti:(ocean+ or sea+) and pollut*
equal sign ( = ) exact phrases as in names and titles ti=alice in wonderland

Using search results

Viewing a detailed record—To view a detailed record from the List of Records screen, click on the record title. To return to the List of Records screen, click the List of Records link on the Results tab.

Viewing full text —The Full Text button and full text format information appear with any record for which full text is available online. Click either the button or the format information to see the full text.

Sorting records —Click the Sort button to select sort options for a set of results containing 500 or fewer records. Sort options vary by database.

Related records—To find related records, click the Related Authors button or Related Subjects button .

Limiting results —To narrow your set of results, click the Limit button and select from the list of database-specific limits.

Marking a subset of records—Click the checkbox for each record you want in your subset. Use the Mark All button to mark all records on a page or the Clear Marks button to unmark all records on the list. Click the Marked Records link on the Results tab to view, e-mail, or save..

Printing —Click the Print button to reformat a page of results for printing. Use your browser's print function to print. Click the Return button to return to the original format.

E-mailing —Click the E-mail button to e-mail records, library ownership information, or full-text copy.

Exporting —Click the Export button to export data directly to bibliographic management programs such as EndNote® or RefWorks™. Data can also be exported as text files to ProCite® or similar programs.

Library ownership information —The My Library Owns icon and the My Library Group Owns icon are displayed with any resource that your library or library group owns. Click the Libraries button to view a list of libraries that hold a particular resource.

Interlibrary loan —On the Detailed Record screen, click the ILL button to request an item through interlibrary loan.