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A Guide to Searching Sterling
Words Subject Headings Authors Titles Author/Keywords Call Numbers
Standard Numbers Limiting and Sorting Interpreting Screens Showing Similar Items Printing Further Assistance


The Sterling Library Catalog is a database shared by all units of the Howard University Library System, including all its branches and special collections (except Law--search DanielWebCat separately). It contains:


You may search for single words or a combination of words in titles, subject headings, contents notes, names of companies, organizations, governments and conferences. Words may be combined using the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT.


When you enter more than one word, Sterling assumes an "AND" between them and finds only those records containing ALL of those words, not necessarily as a phrase. Using "AND" narrows the search.
Sample Search: Finds catalog entries:
brewster place  with the word "brewster" and the word "place," retrieving the book entitled, The Women of Brewster Place 
primates adaptation  with the word "primates" and the word "adaptation," retrieving materials that discuss both subject areas 
guitar weeps  with the word "guitar" and the word "weeps," retrieving the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
white house aging  issued by the White House Conference on Aging 
inorganic chemistry ejournals with the words "inorganic," "chemistry" and "ejournals" in either the title or the subject terms. This search identifies electronic journals matching the search criteria and specifies the database service in which the full text appears. For example, Polyhedron (ejournal:SciDirect).


You may enter an "OR" between words, and Sterling will search for records that contain AT LEAST ONE of those words. Using "OR" expands the search.
Sample Search: Finds catalog entries:
discrimination OR prejudice  with the word "discrimination" or the word "prejudice" 
beijing OR peking  with both place names for this Chinese city 
color OR colour  with both the American and the British spelling of "color" 


You may enter a "NOT" between words, and Sterling will find the first word and EXCLUDE any of those entries that contain the second word.
Sample Search: Finds catalog entries:
mexico NOT new  with the word "mexico" but not the word "new," retrieving materials on the country but not the state of New Mexico
bronte NOT charlotte  on the Bronte sisters, but not Charlotte 


You may enter an asterisk at the end of a search word. This will find words beginning with the letters you typed with all possible endings. This allows you to find singular, plural, and possessive forms of a word within the same search. It will also pick up some foreign language spellings. The asterisk serves to expand your search.
Sample Search: Finds catalog entries:
australia*  with the words, "Australia," "Australian," "Australia's" 
adolescen*  with the words "adolescent," "adolescents," and "adolescence," as well as foreign language spellings such as "adolenscente" and "adolescencia" 

Combining Operators

Sample Search: Finds catalog entries:
dakota* NOT (north OR south)  on the Dakota Indians or the Dakota Territory but not the states of North Dakota or South Dakota 
substance abuse (teenage* or adolescen* or youth)  on substance abuse by youth, whether they are referred to as "teenagers" or "adolescents" or simply "youth" 
Word searches can be lengthy. You may be able to find something more quickly with a Subject Heading Search. Avoid searching for words or phrases likely to have many entries, e.g. united states.


Subject Headings

Subject headings can be topics, places, persons, or organizations. Most subject headings are based on the Library of Congress Subject Headings (Print copies are available in all libraries). You may enter a complete LC subject heading, or browse by using a shortened form of the heading. The less you type the more you retrieve. Subdivisions of an LC heading may be entered first.
Sample Search: Finds catalog entries:
afro americans education higher  with the Library of Congress subject heading, "Afro-Americans" with the subdivision "Education (Higher)" 
afro americans  with the LC subject heading, "Afro-Americans" without any subdivision, providing a greater number of entries to browse 
case studies adolescent psychiatry  with the LC subject heading, "Adolescent psychiatry -- Case studies" 
mozambique  with the LC heading "Mozambique" 
mozart wolfgang amadeus  with the LC heading "Mozart, Wolfgang, Amadeus", retrieving materials about Mozart rather than music composed by him 
amnesty international  with the LC heading "Amnesty International", retrieving materials about the organization rather than materials published by the organization 
An unsuccessful search results in the message "your entry would be here." Try

If you are unsure of the LC subject heading use a Keyword search.

Search the catalog by Subject Heading.



Authors can be persons (such as poets, editors, translators, illustrators, artists, composers, performers, actors, and directors), companies, corporations, countries, government agencies or conferences.
Sample Search: Finds catalog entries:
soyinka  by Wole Soyinka 
oneill e  by all the Oneills whose first names begin with "e" 
bronte charlotte  by Charlotte Bronte 
garcia lorca federico  by Federico Garcia Lorca 
elizabeth i  by Elizabeth I 
american psychological assoc  by the American Psychological Association 
conference on british studies  produced by the Conference on British Studies 
An unsuccessful search results in the message "your entry would be here." Try

Search the catalog by Author.



Title searches will retrieve both individual titles and series titles. Initial articles, e.g. a, an, the, el, une, das, may be omitted but internal articles must be included.
Sample Search: Finds :
color purple  Walker's book, The Color Purple 
all the kings men  Warren's book, All the King's Men 
poeta en nueva york  Garcia Lorca's poem, Poeta en Nueva York 
1000 avant garde plays  Koch's 1000 Avant-Garde Plays 
chronicle of higher education  The Chronicle of Higher Education 
journal of structural geology  The Journal of Structural Geology 
monde  La Monde 
philadelphia inquirer  The Philadelphia Inquirer 
dido and aeneas  Purcell's opera, Dido and Aeneas 
An unsuccessful search results in the message "your entry would be here." Try

If you are unsure of the exact title, use a Keyword search.

Search the catalog by Title.

An unsuccessful search results in the message "your entry would be here." Try

Search the catalog by Title.



An Author/Keyword search is an Author search limited by a word or words in the title or subject heading. After you type in an author's name and a word or words from the title or subject, the system will retrieve all entries by that author and then pick out entries that contain those words. Note that the words you choose to search do not have to be the first words of the title. This is a good search strategy to use when you know the name of an author but are unsure of the complete title.
Sample Search: Finds:
shakespeare w / henry  Shakespeare's plays, King Henry IV, Henry V, King Henry VI, and King Henry VIII 
bronte / heights  Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights 
society of friends / old banner a collection of essays entitled, The Old Banner
An unsuccessful search results in the message "your entry would be here." Try

You might also try just an Author search or just a Keyword search.

Search the catalog by Author/Keyword.


Number Search

Library of Congress call numbers are used to classify most of the materials in the University Library System. Note that LC numbers always begin with a letter. Type the full LC call number with or without spaces or browse by typing a shortened version of the number.
Sample Search by
Library of Congress
call number:
hq1236.5u6c68  a book entitled, The Grounding of Modern Feminism 
hq 1236.5 u6 c68  the same book, The Grounding of Modern Feminism 
hq1236.5  the LC classification in the area of women in politics 

Consult the letters and titles of the main classes of the Library of Congress Classification.

The National Library of Medicine Classification (NLM) is used for health sciences or health-related  material.
Dewey decimal
call numbers are found in the Undergraduate Library where about one third of the older materials in the social sciences and literature are in the Dewey decimalclassification. Dewey decimal numbers always begin with at least three digits. Type the full Dewey Decimal call number with spaces between elements or browse by typing a shortened version of the number.
Sample Search by
Dewey call number:
888.1 M996  a book entitled, Heroditus, Father of history  
888  the Dewey classification for ancient Greek writings 

Standard Numbers - include the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and the ISSN (International Standard Serial Number). Type the ISBN without spaces or punctuation. Type the other standard numbers with exact spaces and punctuation.
Sample Search by
0837151759  a book entitled, The Social Dimensions of Mental Illness  
0028-9604  the magazine, Newsweek 


Limiting and Sorting

Once you have done a search, you may sort the result by year of publication and limit the results by one or more of the following:

For example, a KEYWORD search for "human genetics" retrieves over 300 entries. If you limit for publication after 1995 your search will result in far fewer entries to browse through.

An unsuccessful limit search produces the message "0 entries found."


Interpreting Screens

The information enclosed by the box at the bottom of the screen gives location, call number, and status of the item. The status area will tell you if the item is available, or out to another borrower and when it is to be returned to the library.

Show Similar Items

When you have displayed a record for one title, you can click on underlined headings in that record, such as the author, subject headings, call number, or alternative titles. The catalog will perform a new search for the heading you selected. Once you have found one title that matches your needs, you can use this method to quickly find similar materials.



You can print any screen by clicking on the PRINT button of your web browser.

Further Assistance

If you have any questions about this guide or would like to learn more about searching Sterling, contact a reference librarian.


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