FAQ / Search Tips - Quick Search & Catalogue

Quick Search is a multi-disciplinary search and discovery tool that allows you to find physical and online resources on a wide range of topics in a variety of formats, including articles (in journals, magazines and newspapers), books, games, maps, music, periodical titles, reports, videos and more. 

Quick Search simultaneously searches McMaster's library catalogue and the contents of several subscription and open access databases. Search results are presented in a single list, but can be separated by selecting the "Library Catalogue" or "Articles & More" limit in the Refine by: column on the left. 

Library Catalogue and Articles & More Limits  

Library Catalogue results should all be available at McMaster libraries in some format (print, online, microform, etc.). Articles & More results may not always be available at McMaster libraries - options for getting these items are noted here

Quick Search is not a comprehensive search of everything available through McMaster libraries. You may need to search other resources to find all relevant material on your topic. Library staff, research guides and video tutorials can be consulted for resource recommendations and search strategies. The Database facet in the Refine by: column of Quick Search can also help you identify which resources may be worth exploring in more depth. Searching a specific database will typically provide more search options, limits and targeted results.

Database Limit
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Quick Search supports keyword searching. Go to discovery.mcmaster.ca and enter your keyword(s) into the search box. When the search is submitted, the results can include both physical and online items containing your keyword(s). The Refine by: column on the left allows you to limit your results by a variety of criteria including Format, Location, Subject,  Language, Geography and more.

To search for keyword(s) anywhere, use the Keyword option in Basic Search (default) or Advanced Search. NOTE: Numbers can also be used in a Keyword search. 

To search by author, title or subject keyword(s), go to the Advanced Search and select the desired index from the drop-down menus. Use the Boolean operators  AND, OR and NOT to combine search words. NOTE: AND is the default Boolean operator. 

Advanced Search - Field Searching
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Do I have to use the limiting options in the Refine by: column?

Using the limits is not required, but can be very helpful! For example, after you do your search you can limit your results to scholarly journal articles by selecting  "Academic Journals" from the Format facet. 

Format Limits

Keep in mind that the limiting options listed in the Refine by: column may not apply to all results. Some only apply to Library Catalogue results and some only apply to Articles & More results. The following list identifies which facets/limits apply to which results. Those highlighted in bold text apply to both sets of results. 

Refine by: Library Catalogue Articles & More
• Found In  
• Availability  
• Location  
• Course  
• Instructor  
• Database  
• Publication Year  
• Publication   
• Publisher  
Date of Publication

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Is Boolean searching supported?

Yes. Boolean operators allow search words to be combined.  AND (all words), OR (any words), and NOT (excludes words) are supported. The AND operator is the default operator which means that if there is no Boolean operator specified between words, the AND operator is used.

In the Basic Search, Boolean operators must be entered ALL CAPS.


• stocks bonds finds items containing both words, in any order, anywhere
• stocks AND bonds finds items containing both words, in any order, anywhere
• stocks OR bonds finds items containing either word, in any order, anywhere
• stocks NOT bonds finds items containing the first word, but not the second word, anywhere

NOTE: Using a mix of Boolean operators in a single search string - e.g., (stocks OR bonds) AND prices -  will not be processed correctly in a Basic Search. Use the Advanced Search to create these more complex searches. Once the search is entered, the appropriate syntax will appear in the search box - e.g., (stocks | bonds) (prices)

In the Advanced Search, use the drop-down menus to restrict searches to certain indexes (i.e.,  Keyword, Title Keyword, Author Keyword, Subject Keyword) and use one or more Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to search for a combination of words in a single search.

Advanced Search - Boolean Searching
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Can wildcard symbols be used?

Yes. A wildcard symbol (or truncation symbol) can be used in a search to find multiple variations of a word.

The question mark ? wildcard replaces a single character (1) anywhere in the word.
The asterisk  *  wildcard replaces any number of characters (0 or more) and can be used in the middle or at the end of a word.  


• wom?n finds items containing woman, women, womin, womyn, etc.
• te?t finds items containing tent, test, text, etc.
• te*t finds items containing tent, test, text, tempt, tenement, testament, , etc.
• environment* finds items containing environment, environmental, environmentalist, environmentalism, etc.
• polic* finds items containing police, policing, policy, policies, etc.
• * finds all items

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Can I search for an exact phrase?

Yes. Put quotation marks "  " around the words to find items containing the exact words in the order specified.


• "gone with the wind"
• "great lakes"
• "to be or not to be"
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What are my sorting options?

Quick Search allows results to be sorted by relevance (default) and date (descending only - newest to oldest date of publication).

Catalogue and Classic Catalogue allow results to be sorted by relevance (default), date (descending only - newest to oldest date of publication) and title (A to Z). 

NOTE: Navigating directly to the last page in a list of results in Quick Search and Catalogue is not possible at this time. Use the next, previous and # links at the bottom of the list to move between pages of results. There are 25 records per page. Classic Catalogue does allow you to jump to the last page of results. There are 50 records per page.

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How do I access the full text?

View full text by clicking on the PDFFull Text, or Get it @ Mac buttons that appear in the record. 

Full-text options
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What if there is no PDF or Full Text button?

Try clicking the title of the item in your results list. This will bring you to a more complete description of the item. Links should appear on the left. You may need to use the Get it @ Mac button to see if full-text is available. NOTE:  Items that appear in Quick Search are not always available in full-text at McMaster. Your options for acquiring the full-text are described below.   

No Full Text

  1. If there are no PDF or Full Text buttons displayed (as in the example above), select the Get it @ Mac button.
  2. If the Get it @ Mac menu includes links to the full-text onlineGet It @ Mac! Online Link to Full-Text, select one (or more) of the links listed  to view the full-text. NOTE: Online links are absent in the above example.
  3. If the Get it @ Mac menu does not include links for full-text online, select Get It @ Mac - Link to Possible Full-Text in Print Check for a print copy. This option will automatically search for the Source (e.g., European Intellectual Property Review) in our library catalogue. If the source title appears in the results, take note of the library, location, call number and holdings. Locate the source on the shelf and use the citation details of the item (i.e., date, volume, issue, page, etc.) to find the full-text in print. NOTE: If available in the full catalogue record, select the scan button to get a scanned version of the printed item via email. 
  4. If the full-text is not held at McMaster in any format (as in the example above), the item can be requested via interlibrary loan using a system called RACER. On the Get it @ Mac menu, select Request document on Interlibrary Loan via RACER and complete the form. Top of Page

How do I find books and other items in the library?

Material at the library will display a location and a call number where the item is located. If the material is request-able, a Request it button will display. Click this button to submit your request!

Find and Request Library Items
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How can I get more details about an item?

In a Results list, click on the title of an item to display the full record.

Scroll through the full record to see more details or information about the item. 

If an item has cover art, click the cover image or More Info link in the full record to view additional information about the title which can include a summary, author notes, inside flap, an excerpt, reviews, table of contents and more. 

Also, some full records have a Google Preview button at the bottom of the record. Select the Google Preview button to learn more about the item from Google Books. 

More Details in Full Record
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Can I search by DOI?

Yes. A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is an alphanumeric string assigned by a publisher when an item (usually a journal article) is made available online. Thousands of DOIs are indexed in Quick Search and more are being added daily.

  • Your DOI may find the Full Text / PDF right away:

DOI Search with PDF

  • or it may return a Get it @ Mac button for you to select:

DOI Search with Get It @ Mac

NOTE:  If a DOI search returns no results, try searching for the title of the item.
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Can I search by ISBN and ISSN?

Common identifiers such as ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and ISSN (Internatinal Standard Serial Number) can also be typed into the search box.

  • ISBNs can be entered with or without dashes, but removing ISBN dashes is sometimes more precise:

ISBN Search

  • ISSNs can also be searched with or without dashes, but may be inconsistent. 

NOTE:  If an ISBN or ISSN search returns no results, try searching for the title of the item.
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Can I search by call number?

Yes. If you have a complete call number, enter it in the search box. If you only know the beginning of the call number, try entering it in the search box. Using the "Library Catalogue" or "Location" limits in the Refine by: column may also enhance the precision of your results.

Call Number Search

NOTE:  If a call number search returns no results, try adjusting the spaces within the call number or try searching for the title of the item.
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Can I browse by call number?

Yes. If an item with a call number is retrieved, click the hyperlinked Call No. in the brief record [select see all] or full record to browse nearby items with images (Graphical browse - default) or in a list (select List browse). 

Call Number Browse

NOTE: You can also browse by call number in the Classic Catalogue. Select the appropriate call number index from the drop-down menu, type in a call number and select Submit to view a list of nearby items. 

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How do I find materials on reserve for a course?

Find materials on reserve by entering the course code (e.g., MECHENG 2QA4 ) or instructor's name (e.g., Gary Bone) in the search box, then select the "Course" or "Instructor" facet in the Refine by: column. Click on the course code or instructor's name to view results. An icon resembling a chalk board  indicates a course resource is on reserve.

Course Reserves Search 

NOTE: You can also search AND browse for Course Reserves in the Classic Catalogue
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Can I search the Library Catalogue separately?

Yes. Select the Catalogue tab at discovery.mcmaster.ca
The Catalogue looks and works just like Quick Search, minus the "Articles & More" content. 
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Is a Classic Catalogue still available?

Yes. A refreshed Classic Catalogue is available at: catalogue.mcmaster.ca.
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What is the difference between the Catalogue and Classic Catalogue?

The Catalogue and Classic Catalogue share the same content, but vary in appearance and in some search features and functionalities. Which version of the catalogue you use is a matter of personal preference and need.

The Catalogue supports keyword searching and provides a variety of limits to refine search results. The Catalogue looks and works just like Quick Search, minus the "Articles & More" content. 

The Classic Catalogue supports both keyword and browse searching.
Classic Catalogue - Search and Browse Indexes

The default search option in the Classic Catalogue is a keyword(s) anywhere search. To find keywords in the title, author or subject fields, use the Advanced Search.

To browse the Classic Catalogue, choose one of the browse indexes from the drop-down menu (i.e. Title, Journal Title, Author, Subject, Medical Subject, etc.) NOTE:  There is no "browse" radio button to select - picking one of these indexes will automatically result in a browsable list. Once the desired index is selected, type in a word, phrase, letter or number to generate a browsable list of items beginning with the characters entered. See the table below for descriptions of each browse index with examples. 

Browsing the Classic Catalogue
Browse Indexes  Description  Examples
Title Browse an alphabetical list of all titles. lord of the rings
romeo and juliet
Journal Title Browse an alphabetical list of journal, magazine and newpaper titles. globe and mail
Author  Browse an alphabetical list of personal and corporate authors. Names of individuals should be entered last name (i.e., surname) first.  king stephen
ontario council of health
Subject Browse an alphabetical list of LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings). motion pictures
world war 1939-1945
Medical Subject Browse an alphabetical list of MeSH (Medical Subject Headings).  cardiovascular diseases
delivery of health care
Series Browse an alphabetical list of series titles. grove ethical studies
very short introductions
ISBN/ISSN Browse a numeric list of ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) or ISSNs (International Standard Serial Numbers). Enter the entire standard number or the beginning of a standard number, with or without dashes.  978-0345810366
Call Number - LC/NLM Browse an alphanumeric list of LCC (Library of Congress Classification) and NLM (National Library of Medicine) call numbers. Enter the entire call number or the beginning of a call number. Spacing between characters may have to be adjusted.  HF 5001
WY 128 .V831
Call Number - CODOC Browse an alphanumeric list of CODOC call numbers. The CODOC classification system is used for some government publications in Mills and Thode libraries. Enter the entire call number or the beginning of the call number. Spacing between characters may have to be adjusted.  CA1 Z 1- 91A16H
US1 AB - C55
Call Number - Local Browse an alphanumeric list of call numbers used locally. Enter the entire call number or the beginning of a call number. Spacing between characters may have to be adjusted.  mvc 60
film 1042
Course Reserves - Course Browse a list of course reserve materials by course code. history 4a06
psych 2b03
Course Reserves - Instructor  Browse a list of course reserve materials by instructor. Enter the last name (i.e., surname) first.  frager, ruth
day, richard

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How do I login to My Library Account?

MAC ID logins are only available to currently registered McMaster faculty, staff and students. 

  • ​​​​​​Enter your McMaster MAC ID username & password
  • Click Submit

If you need assistance with your MAC ID, please refer to: http://mcmaster.ca/uts/macid/

NOTE: If you have multiple roles with McMaster (e.g., as both an employee and as a student), you may have more than one Library Account in our system. If your MAC ID doesn't retrieve your desired Library Account (i.e., your Checkouts do not display), use the barcode and PIN option described below.


2. McMaster ID card barcode and PIN
Barcode logins are required for all non-McMaster community users (e.g., external borrowers). 
Barcode logins are also an option for currently registered McMaster faculty, staff and students. 

  • Enter the 14-digit barcode number on your McMaster ID card (e.g. 29005002103816).
  • Enter your PIN
    •  Don't have a library PIN yet?
      • Leave the PIN box blank  and click Submit 
      • When prompted to enter a new PIN, choose a numeric code at least 4 digits long.
      • Reytpe the new PIN to confirm. 
        The system will log you into your account and save your PIN. The next time you need to access your account, enter both pieces of information on the login screen
  • Click Submit

If you need assistance with your barcode and PIN, please contact a Service Desk in one of the libraries - http://library.mcmaster.ca/justask

NOTE: Always remember to log out of your account, especially when using a public or shared computer.
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Will My Library Account change?

All current checkouts and hold requests in your Library Account will automatically move into the new system. Lists of items saved in your existing account, however, will need to be exported into the new system. 

Your new library account will have a new look and some new features including Reading History and SMS (Short Message Service) (i.e., texting). 
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How do I export my lists of saved items to my new Library Account?

Option 1: Before October 31, 2017 you will need to export any lists of items that you have saved in your existing Library Account.

Export your lists from your account and import to your preferred citation management tool. The main Library Catalogue interface on our website makes it easy to export your lists to EndNote, EndNote Web, and RefWorks, and in more general citation file formats BibTeX and RIS. After the new catalogue is launched, use the link to access your previous Library Account in our old Library Catalogue (VuFind) and retrieve your lists.

Link to Previous Library Account: Library Catalogue (VuFind) - No longer available. 
Video: Exporting Saved Lists from the Library Catalogue (VuFind)

Note that if you've created lists using the Classic Catalogue they are separate from those in the main catalogue. You can print or e-mail those lists after logging into your account from the Classic Catalogue. After the new catalogue is launched, use this link to access your previous Library Account in our old Classic Catalogue and retrieve your lists.

Link to Previous Library Account: Classic Catalogue - No longer available. 
Video: Exporting Saved Lists from the Classic Catalogue

Option 2: After August 16, 2017 you can recreate your lists in your new user account by following the steps below:

  1. Do a search in the new catalogue for an item on your list.
  2. Click the folder icon under Additional actions: for your item in either the search results or the record detail page.
  3. Repeat steps 1-2 for each item on your list.
  4. Click the My Folder link at the top right corner of the page.
  5. Select (check) the items you want to save to a list.
  6. Choose Save to List from the action toolbar.
  7. If you are not logged in, you will be prompted to log into your account.
  8. Once you are logged in, the system displays the Save to My List form. From here, you can either:
  • Choose an existing list from the drop-down menu and click the Add button to add the items to an existing list.
  • Click Save to new list to start a new list of items. If you create a new list, enter a name and description, and then click Create.

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Yes, but this feature only works with Catalogue results. Articles & More results are excluded. 

To create and save a search ...

  1. Go to the Classic CatalogueNOTE: It is not possilble to set-up this feature in Quick Search or Catalogue. 
  2. Login to My Library Account (top right).
  3. Once logged in, select the Classic Catalogue link in the header of your Library Account screen.
  4. Enter your keyword(s) in the Classic Catalogue and submit your search.  
  5. On the results screen, select the Save as preferred search button next to the Search button.
  6. Select Return To Your Record (top right).
  7. Your search keywords should now be listed in the Preferred Searches section in your Library Account. 

To review and run your searches ...

  1. Login to My Library Account either in  Quick Search, Catalogue or Classic Catalogue
  2. Go to the Preferred Searches section of your Library Account.
    • To remove a search, go to the Mark to Remove column, check the tickbox next to the relevant search, and select  Update List button.
    • To remove all searches, select the Delete All Searches button.
    • To create an email alert for items that match your search, go to the Mark for Email column, check the tickbox next to the relevant search, and select Update List button. E-mail notification of Preferred Search titles will be sent each week at 4:00 A.M. on Monday. 
    • To run your searches, click on the Search link within your Library Account. This will run the search in the Classic Catalogue. 

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Questions, Problems, Suggestions, Comments?

Please feel free to contact us in-person, by phone, email or online chat - http://library.mcmaster.ca/justask

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Adapted with permission from Concordia University Library
Last Reviewed: June  29, 2018