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POLS-590 / POLS-860

Using Omni to Find Books @ QUL

Omni offers enhanced discovery and delivery of information resources at Queen's, our partner institutions, and beyond. Implementation of this tool involved collaboration among 16 Ontario partner university libraries.  Please contact your subject librarian for a consultation on advanced research approaches within your discipline.

To work from off-campus, log in to the Off-Campus Access link on the library homepage. This is the gateway to full-text library content. The Omni Sign in link below is to manage your account and enable access to full text if you haven't already logged in. If you search Omni and click a link to an online resource without Off-Campus login, you will be prompted to give your NetID.

What is included in Omni?

Access to multiple formats including books, articles, videos, maps, government documents, music, data sets, open access materials, and more. You can discover materials that are not available at Queen's but that you can freely request either within Omni or through interlibrary loan.

When should you use Omni?

You want to find:

  • Background information 
  • Several articles to get started
  • An exact book or article title
  • Various formats (e.g. books and newspapers)
  • Sources on an interdisciplinary topic 
  • Local and/or unique resources

If you find it difficult to narrow your results, consider using a disciplinary database as recommended in the subject-specific Research Guides.   

Basic Search Principles

Omni can search three different domains: The three search layers within Omni are: Queen's, partner libraries, and beyond

  1. Queen's (physical and online resources)
  2. Queen's + Omni Libraries (default): adds physical holdings of the 15 partner university libraries
  3. Add results beyond: vast academic e-resources provided through the vendor's database. Includes journals, articles, ebooks, reviews, legal documents, technical reports, conference proceedings, and research data sets.​

Basic Search Tips

Apply Boolean operators to focus results:

  • AND is assumed between words (AND must be in capitalse.g. happiness (AND) productivity 
  • Quotations for phases e.g. "genetically modified foods"; "inclusive classroom"
  • OR between related words (OR must be in capitals) e.g. habitat OR ecosystem
  • NOT to exclude terms (NOT must be in capitals) e.g. corona NOT virus
  • Asterisk for alternate word endings e.g. cultur* for culture, cultural, and culturally
  • Question mark for single character wildcard e.g. wom?n for woman, women
  • Brackets to group terms e.g. "climate change" (ecosystem* OR habitat*) Ontario
  • Automatic search expansion includes additional terms e.g. ADHD returns "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder"; heart attack returns "myocardial infarction"

A search for "heart attack" includes "myocardial infarction".

Keyword Searching

When conducting research, the key to successful searching is not in the quantity of search results, but rather how relevant and appropriate they are to the topic. Whether you are searching Google, the library search tool (Omni), or subject-specific databases such as Political Studies @ Proquest there are some common search techniques to improve the efficiency of the search results.

In this module, we will look at strategies for constructing an effective search in a library database. Aspects of searching to be covered here include:

  • choosing keywords
  • synonyms (equitable OR fair)
  • Boolean operators (and/or/not)
  • parentheses
  • phrases ("common law," "Gulf War")
  • truncation (politic? = political, politics)
Choosing Relevant Search Terms

Break down the question/topic into keywords and phrases:

  • Guatemala, developing countries
  • Canadian state / Canada
  • regulation
  • Canadian mining companies

Now, think about whether there are other terms that could also be used to describe the topic, including synonyms, related terms, or words and phrases that have similar meaning.

Note: Most databases use American spelling, so, when applicable, you should search for both versions of a word
(e.g. labour, labor).

Boolean Logic: It is, indeed, [still] worth knowing!

Once you have identified the keywords and phrases that describe your topic, the next step is to connect them in a logical way that most databases will understand - this is accomplished with the use of Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT.

Understanding how databases interpret your keywords will allow you to execute more specific searches, thereby saving you time while retrieving more relevant results. (A database's help pages will indicate how to construct Boolean searches and which wild-cards the database supports.)

NOTE: Omni requires OR to be capitalized e.g. habitat OR ecosystem

Used for
What it Does


when you want to find material containing two or more concepts

using AND between keywords means that both terms must appear somewhere in the record

narrows your search


Guatemala and mining



when you want to find material containing either or any of the keywords

use OR to combine synonyms and related terms

broadens your search


Guatemala or "Central America"


use NOT to exclude a concept or word from the search

use NOT sparingly, if at all, because you could end up excluding useful search results (e.g. articles or books that discuss both concepts)

narrows your search




Guatemala not Mexico

This is perhaps the single most valuable search refinement tool and can be used in most search interfaces...even Google! By enclosing a multi-word phrase in quotes, the database must interpret the words in that exact order. Search results will be greatly reduced because the results won't be pages that have each word in the document in varying locations, but have to be exactly as typed in precisely that proximity.

"third world countries"
"developing countries"

Nested Searching

Whenever you have more than one Boolean operator, such as AND and OR, in a search statement, it is necessary to separate them with parentheses. This "nested searching" tells the database the proper order in which to search for the keywords. Operations enclosed in parentheses are performed first followed by the operators outside the parentheses. For example:

("third world countries" OR "developing countries"


In many library databases you can use a truncation symbol to broaden a search. Truncation is like a shortcut. Placed at the end of the root of a word (or word stem), a truncation symbol tells the database to search for variant endings of the word, including plurals and singulars.

Truncation symbols vary between databases. Here are a few to remember:

  • Omni uses *
  • CBCA (and many other databases) uses *

An example of a truncated search in an article database such as Omni would be:


The databases would retrieve results for teen, teens, teenagers, etc.

Be careful when using truncation as it can produce unintended results. For example, a search for cult* retrieves cult, cults, cultivated, culture, cultures, etc. Only truncate back as far as it would be useful and still on topic.

Note: Omni employs the question mark ? as a wildcard symbol for a single character e.g. wom?n = woman or women.

Up next: we will apply these search techniques to searching Omni.

Advanced Search Techniques

Advanced Search enables additional techniques for narrowing results. Your can apply Boolean operators and:  

  • Limit words and phrases to a specific field such as title or subject
  • Identify the format you want such as books or articles
  • Select the language you prefer
  • Set a date range

The example below illustrates a search for resources on media bias relating to gender or women:

  1.  Exact phrase "media bias" is defined with quotations and has been limited to the title field
  2.  Records must include either gender OR wom?n are requested; OR must be in capitals; ? replaces a single character within a word
  3.  All articles and books are searched
  4.  English language is selected

  Advanced search example requesting the phrase media bias in the title and the word gender or woman  or women in the record

Heads' Up! Omni times out after 30 minutes of inactivity, resetting itself to the default search page.
Personalized Content

Signing into Omni is recommended to access the following features:

  • Update your profile
  • Check loans and requests
  • Renew materials
  • Identify loanable resources
  • Access subscription-based resources
  • View your search history
  • Access Favourites
  • Create alerts