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Finding Books


To determine which books are available at the Queen's University Library search QCAT, the Queen's Library Online Catalogue. It is a searchable database that lists materials (books, journals, magazines, newspapers, videos, government documents, maps, microfilm and much more) found in all the libraries at Queen’s. QCAT also contains the names of the electronic resources to which Queen's Library subscribes, such as electronic journals and books. QCAT does not contain articles. To locate articles, use an index/article database or Summon.

In this module, we will look at the most commonly used search option for identifying books currently in our collection: keyword/keyword Boolean. We will also examine the different parts of the library catalogue record. To wrap up, we will look at using Summon to locate books.



Access the library's catalogue ("QCat") from the Queen's Library Homepage. Select the QCAT option to the right of Summon. Enter your search terms in the search box provided and select the type of search you are doing e.g. keyword.  You can search QCAT in several different ways including: by keyword, keyword Boolean, title keyword, title exact, journal title exact, author and subject heading. You can also limit your search to a specific format (for instance, videos/DVDs/streaming video).

Keyword search

  1. Enter your search in the Search box
  2. Select the type of search in the within box
  3. Click the Search box to begin searching

When searching for books on a topic, rather than for a specific title or author, use one of the keyword search options. Keywords are taken from many parts of the catalogue record including the title, author, subject headings and table of contents fields.

There are two keyword search options available in QCAT: keyword and keyword Boolean.

Keyword Boolean

A keyword search works much the same way as a search in a web search engine, where "AND" is assumed between your keywords. A keyword search using Boolean operators allows you to combine your search terms and get more precise results, and this is the type of keyword search this tutorial will address. 

Use AND to combine search terms and narrow results
Use OR to expand search results by searching for two or more related concepts (or synonyms) simultaneously
Use NOT to narrow search results (it is generally better to use "not" sparingly, if at all)
Truncate words by using ?: cultur? (finds culture, cultures, cultural, etc.)
Search phrases by using quotes: "social justice"
Group search terms by using parentheses: (child? or teen?) and "social inequality”

Example: a keyword boolean search in QCAT for material about what effect poverty has on the health of the elderly could be phrased as:

(poverty or poor) and (elderly or aging or aged) and health?

Keyword Search

Now that we have looked at how to do a keyword Boolean search, you should examine the catalogue record that is retrieved when you select a title.

Library Catalogue record

The Catalogue record provides you with citation information: author, title, publisher, place and date of publication. Status tells you if the book is available, Location tells you in which library the book is located, and call number tells you where the book is located on the Library's shelves. Before turning to an examination of how to read a call number, it is important to consider the Subjects assigned to an item.

Subject Headings

The subjects or subject headings assigned to a book are determined by applying a strict, controlled vocabulary. For this reason, subject headings are not always obvious, which is why a keyword search on your topic is recommended over a subject heading search. However, once you have located a book of interest through a title, author or keyword search, the subject headings become very useful. If a subject heading describes what you are looking for, click on it to find additional items on your topic, or use the subject headings to give you ideas for other words to use in your keyword searches.

There are thousands of electronic books (or "e-books") available at Queen's Library. There are several ways you can locate them.

  • From within QCat there is an option to limit your search to e-books:


You can also search e-book subscription packages directly. The following collections are particularly useful for research in Politics:

  • Scholars Portal
    The platform is designed to provide a single interface for accessing digital texts from multiple content providers. With a single search, you can find books from a variety of scholarly publishers.
  • eDuke Books Scholarly Collection
    Contains books published by Duke University Press. Covers numerous subject areas including political science and political theory.
  • Past Masters
    A collection of works, in both original language and English translation, written by seminal figures in the humanities and social sciences. Subjects covered include the history of political thought and theory, education, religious studies, economics, classics, history and philosophy of science, germanic studies and sociology.

You can also locate e-books (as well as print books, journal articles, and conference proceedings) by using Summon, the library's search engine.

Summon is the library’s search engine, which enables a simultaneous search of QCAT and many of the library’s online collections from a single search box. Summon contains everything found in QCAT, plus much online full-text content available from the Library including articles, journals, conference proceedings, digital primary source material, electronic books and newspapers, theses and dissertations, multimedia and more.

Summon is the default search box on the library’s homepage:

Executing a basic search in Summon (which is also the default search on the library homepage) will return results that pick up your topic words anywhere in the item’s record (title, author, publisher, table of contents) and in the case of articles, somewhere in the article's full text.

Search Tips

  • The Boolean operator OR has to be capitalized in Summon.
  • Use the facets on the left-hand side of the results page to refine or narrow your search results. For instance, selecting 'Book /E-Book' or narrowing results by publication date:

This concludes the "Finding Books" module. Now let's turn our attention to finding journal articles using the library databases.