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    Summon: Phrase, Field, Boolean, Wildcard and Proximity Searching

    • Product: Summon

    What types of searches does Summon support?

    Phrase, field, Boolean, wildcard and proximity searches can all be used in the Summon service.

    • Phrase searches limit results to exact phrase matches.

    • Field searches limit results to matches in the specified fields.

    • Boolean searches, depending on how they are written, can either limit or expand your search.

    • Wildcard searches expand your searches based on word stems or spelling variations.

    • Proximity searches limit results to terms that appear within a specified number of words in a phrase.

    See also information on the Advanced Search interface.

    Phrase Searching

    Entering multiple terms in double quotes ("  ") limits results to exact phrase matches. For example, a search for "computational linguistics" (in double quotes) return results that contain exact matches on computational linguistics, but not on linguistics and computational chemistry or computational chemistry and linguistics.

    Punctuation and a letter's case are ignored in phrase searches. For example, a search for the phrase “state depression” (in double quotes) could return results that include the following exact phrases: 

    • state, depression

    • state. Depression

    • state / depression

    • state: Depression.

    Phrase searches are supported in languages that do not use white spaces between words, such as Chinese, Japanese and Thai. For example, a search for "東京の歴史" (in double quotes) will match the exact phrase 東京の歴史 but not 東京の文化と歴史.

    Phrase searching also increases the effect of the verbatim match boost feature. The verbatim match boost feature is part of Summon's relevance ranking algorithm, which boosts the relevance scores of verbatim matches – namely, the matches that do not match via character normalization, stemming or other native language search features. For example, searching for "heavy metals" (in double quotes) will emphasize that phrase over "heavy metal" to a much larger degree than the non-phrase search for heavy metals (without double quotes).

    Using this property, double quotes can be used even on a single term when it's important to emphasize verbatim matches. For example, if a search for résumé (without double quotes) is returning undesirable matches on "resume" as top results, enclosing the search term in double quotes (i.e., "résumé") will further emphasize the verbatim match over the non-verbatim matches.

    Known Limitation: Please note that stop words appearing at the end of a phrase are currently dropped from the phrase search. For example, a search for "there she was" would drop "was" and match phrases such as "there she is" since "was" is defined as a stop word for English.

    Field Searching

    Field searches, or fielded searches, specify which field to search. The basic Summon searching includes titles, authors, subject terms, abstracts and other metadata fields as well as full text. Field searching limits results to matches only in the specified field. The format of field searching is field:(search terms). A list of common searchable fields in Summon can be found here.


    • Title:(biotechnology)

    • Title:(experimental psychology)

    • Author:(graham greene)

    • SubjectTerms:(medical care)

    The first example actually works without the parentheses, but the second example requires them; otherwise, the field specifier "Title:" will only modify "experimental", and not "psychology". To avoid an oversight, we recommend using parentheses with single terms as well.

    Field searching can be used with a phrase search. For example:

    Title:"machine translation"

    The above search specifies the phrase search in the Title field, and it will only match the exact phrase "machine translation" and not "machine and human translation", for example.

    Please note that the ":" character can mean any of the following:

    • The field search operator

    • A punctuation symbol - often used to combine a title and a subtitle

    • A letter in an alphabet or a transliteration system in certain languages

    Summon does intelligent processing to the search string to disambiguate these, and it should not be necessary to do anything to disambiguate these in most cases. If it is used as a punctuation, it will be ignored, for example. However, Summon provides two methods for manually escaping the ":" operator. When these methods are used, ":" will NOT be interpreted as the field search operator.

    • Enclosing them in double quotes (i.e., phrase searches) – Examples: "abc:d", "title: subtitle"

    • Using the escape character "\" – Examples: abc\:d, title\: subtitle

    Boolean Operators

    The Summon service offers the following Boolean operations: AND, OR, and NOT. The operators must be written in all capital letters to ensure that they are interpreted as Boolean operators.

    • The AND operator – When there is no explicit Boolean operator between two terms, the AND operator is assumed.  For example, if you search for earthquake fault, you will get the same result set as when you search for earthquake AND fault. Note that the relevance ranking of the result set may be different since the first search applies higher relevance scores to phrase matches and proximity matches on "earthquake fault".  See the Proximity Searching section below for additional details.

    • The NOT operator – The NOT operator is always applied to the term or Boolean expression that is immediately following the operator. The NOT operator is normally used with another term or expression to exclude certain matches. Examples: dogs NOT cats, birds NOT (cats OR dogs) – note that these have the same meaning as dogs AND (NOT cats), birds AND (NOT (cats OR dogs)), respectively.

    • The OR operator – The OR operator returns results when the record matches either or both search terms. For example, the query dogs OR cats returns records that contain either dog or cat.

    • Defining precedence of Boolean expressions – Parentheses are used to group Boolean expressions, and they define the precedence of Boolean expressions. A general rule of thumb is to always use parentheses when there is any ambiguity in a Boolean expression. Examples: cats AND (dogs OR raccoons), (cats AND dogs) OR raccoons, cats AND (NOT (dogs OR raccoons)).

    • Using Boolean operators with multi-word terms – Users should use parentheses or double quotes when using Boolean operators with terms that consist of multiple words. For example, the Boolean search climate change OR extreme weather may not produce the desired results because it is not clear whether the OR operator applies to one or both of the terms on either side of the operator. To be more explicit, users should use parentheses if they want to AND those terms before applying the OR operator (for example, (climate change) OR (extreme weather)) or use double quotes to indicate that you want to match each of those phrases exactly before applying the OR operator (for example, "climate change" OR "extreme weather").

    • Boolean searches in German language UI – Conforming to a standard practice in German-language search engines, when the German UI selected, Boolean operator words "UND", "ODER", and "NICHT" act as alternatives to AND, OR, and NOT. The English operators will continue to work in the German UI.

    • Boolean search and Summon relevance ranking algorithm – Boolean queries get processed by the same relevance ranking algorithm as any other query. 

    • Combining Boolean searches with other search options – Boolean searches can be combined with other search options, such as the phrase search and the field search. Example: (Title:cats OR Title:dogs OR Title:"white lions") AND Author:smith, Title:(dogs NOT cats), (Title:lectures NOT Title:physics) AND Author:feynman, Title:("computational linguistics" OR "corpus linguistics")

    • Hyphen – If a word or phrase follows a hyphen and there is no white space between the hyphen and the following word, the hyphen is treated as an AND NOT operator and thus any results that match the search terms following the hyphen are excluded. For example, if the search query is “Outside the square”-midwifery consultancy, a title with the same name would not be returned in the results since there was no space between the hyphen and the word midwifery


    Searches within the Summon service can be performed using two wildcards: the question mark (?)  and the asterisk (*). Wildcards cannot be used as the first character of a search, nor should a wildcard be used within double quotes (phrase searching).

    The question mark (?) will match any one character. For example, it can be used to find Olsen or Olson by searching for Ols?n, but it will not find Olsson because there are two characters between the s and n characters in that name.

    The question mark (?) does not work as a wildcard character at the end of a word. This is to avoid a confusion when a question mark is used as a punctuation character. For example, the question mark in a search for 'who's afraid of virginia woolf?' (with or without double quotes) will be interpreted as a punctuation mark, not as a wildcard. In this case, the final term will match "woolf" as most users would expect, not "woolfy" or "woolfs".

    The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. A search for Ch*ter will match CharterCharacter, and Chapter.

    When used at the end of a word, the asterisk will allow all possible characters to be included so Temp* will match Temptation, Temple, and Temporary.


    • The use of wildcards within a phrase search is not supported.

    • A wildcard search does not necessarily return more results than the same search without the wildcard. This is because the language-specific search features, such as stemming/lemmatization, synonym mapping and spelling normalization (see Native-Language Searching), do not apply to the wildcard search. For example, a keyword search for archaeology may return more results than the wildcard search for archaeolog* since the former matches both archaeology and archeology via Summon's English spelling normalization feature, but the latter matches only archaeology and not archeology.

    Proximity Searching

    Proximity searches limit result sets to terms within a specified number of words from each other. To perform a proximity search, enclose your search terms in quotation marks and use the tilde (~) followed by a number indicating the distance you want to allow between the search terms.

    For example,  "yeast bread"~10 finds material where the words yeast and bread appear within 10 words of each other.

    Proximity searching does not take the order of search terms into account. A search for "boron nanotubes potassium"~6 will yield results in which the three search terms appear in various orders.

    Full Text Proximity

    Summon also provides full text proximity, which is automatically applied if there are two or more query terms that are not within a phrase query (in other words, not within quotation marks). To increase search precision on the full text field, this proximity feature boosts results when all such query terms are within 200 words of each other. (Note that 200 words is the typical length of a paragraph.)

    Understanding Search Results

    These various search options provide powerful tools for advanced users of Summon. They can be combined to form complex queries, and sometimes the rules described above and their interactions with the relevance ranking algorithm and/or the native language search features may become difficult to identify in search results. Our recommendation is to start always with simpler options, such as the basic searching (i.e., without using any of these options), the phrase searching, and the field searching, and if these options do not provide best results, start to add some of the advanced options such as the Boolean searching and the wildcard searching.

    If there are remaining questions or concerns, please use the Ex Libris Support Portal (accessible via the More Sites drop-down menu above) to contact our Support team.

    • In order for the Support Team to accurately research a concern, the following information is needed:

      • The Summon URL for your search, which is located in your browser's address bar.

      • Your specific question regarding the search results.

      • Which citation(s) do you have questions about?

      • Include the Title, Author, and ISSN or ISBN number.  Or, include a screenshot with the concerning citations circled.

    Once we receive the above information, a member of the Support Team will respond after they have researched your concern.

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