How to Use Summon


Phrase Searching

Summon allows for phrase searching with the use of “ ”. The search “teacher education” will find results with that exact phrase.

Boolean Operators

Summon offers the following Boolean operations: OR, NOT and AND. The operators must be written in ALL CAPS.

By default, all terms in a search are combined with the AND operator. To expand the results set, use the OR operator microcircuits OR nanocircuits will return items that contain either term.

This can be combined with quoted terms such as “teacher education” OR “educator training”.

To exclude items, use the NOT operator or the minus sign (-) before a term. The search animal NOT dog does not include results with the term dog.

Proximity Operators

Use the tilde (~) character and a number at the end of multiple words to limit results containing query words within close proximity.  When used on the phrase “chloroplast import” ~5, the term chloroplast and the term import will have to be found within 5 words of each other in the document.

Increasing the Weight of a Term

Use the ^ character to increase the weight of a specific term. The ^ character should be followed by a weight. When used on the phrase "computer Olson^4" the term "Olson" will have more weight and result relevancy will favor that term.

Wildcard Use

Searches can be performed using the wildcards ? and *.

The question mark (?) will match any one character and can be used to find Olsen or Olson by searching for Ols?n.

The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. A search for labo*r will match, for example, labor, labour, laborer, labourer, etc. When used at the end of a word, manage* finds manager, managers, management, etc.

Wildcards cannot be used as the first character of a search.

Important to know: Any terms retrieved using either * or ? characters are not considered when sorting your results based on relevance (the default). There is no way for Summon to assess the relevance of these terms to your search. For example, your search for 'bio*' could return occurrences of any or all of these terms: 'bionic' or 'biosynthesis' or 'biodegrade' or 'biographic.' One, some, all, or none could be relevant to your research.

Facets (Refining your search)

Summon uses a variety of facets to limit and refine search results, much like Amazon and database providers like ESBCOhost. Results can be refined by date, subject, publication type and other options.  Each time you turn a facet on or off, your search is repeated and you'll see a new set of results.  Select as many options as you wish, but allow the screen to refresh between each one.  Most facets will reduce the number of search results (Include results from outside your library's collection will always increase the number of results.) Use the more link beneath a set of facets to see additional choices (these are typically listed in order of the number of results) and to use an exclude facet option in addition to the default include option.

Popular choices for limiting your results are to select documents that are available with full text online, from scholarly publications or not in newspapers.

You can also refine your results by content type, such as, journal article, book, eBook, newspaper article, etc… To refine your results by date range, use the slider(s) to change the Publication Date range.

If you refine your search by adding results beyond Randall Library’s collection, you will find references for items not immediately available, but frequently these items may be obtained via interlibrary loan.

Scholarly Publications Limit

When you turn on the Limit to articles from scholarly publications, including peer-review option, you will limit your search results to articles from peer-reviewed journals. (Note that books from academic and university publishers are often considered "scholarly," but this option eliminates all books from your results.) This option uses data from UlrichsWeb - Ulrich's Periodical Directory , which identifies scholarly and peer-reviewed journals, and is our preferred source of this information when you need to manually verify a journal or article citation as being scholarly.

Overview of Advanced Searching in Randall Library Searchbox

Default Search

A default search using Summon is a keyword search against the items we have local access to:

  • articles from journals to which we subscribe
  • content from participating databases to which we subscribe
  • freely available content such as from open access journals or government websites
  • books, ebooks, government documents, archival materials, special collection and many other types of items from our library

With Summon, you will find items including scholarly journal articles, newspaper articles, eBooks, audio files, and video files. A simple search of one or two words will return thousands of results; use phrase searching, field searching, and facets to refine your search and return fewer results.

Use the "Include results from outside your library's collection" option to include records from other library catalogs, articles from journals to which we don't have subscriptions, and records from databases to which we don't subscribe. You can request most of these items via interlibrary loan.

Keep in Mind...

Searching Specific Fields

Summon will search across many fields automatically. For example, entering an ISBN, ISSN, or call number will bring back records related to those fields.

You can explicitly search a field using the strategy: field:(search terms). For example, the search title:(Art of Creative Teaching) finds records that contain those words in the title.

Use quotation marks with this strategy to find records with exact phrases.  The search title:("Art of Creative Teaching") finds records with that exact phrase in the title field.

Searchable fields:

  • Title
  • Subject Terms
  • Author
  • Publisher
  • Publication Title
  • Volume
  • Issue
  • Language
  • Notes
  • ISBN
  • ISSN
  • DOI

Advanced Searching

Use the advanced search option to be more specific in your search.

Viewing, Printing, Saving, Referencing

The upper right corner of the results screen contains icons that allow you to print the results (the first 25 results will be printed, or about the equivalent of three single sided pages) or set up an RSS feed for your current search.  To see a preview (abstract and more details) hover over the title of an item or click the magnifying glass to see a preview or the click the folder icon to save an item to a temporary folder (saved items will be cleared when you leave your Summon session). You may format, export, email or print saved items at any time.

Summon & Accessibility

An accessible version of Summon is now available for those with visual disabilities. Summon users with screen-reader technology can use navigational elements at the top of the page known as “skip navigation” to allow the focus of the page to go directly to the search results, avoiding the navigation, search box, and filter elements.

A user also can navigate through Summon by using a keyboard:



Left Arrow

  • Moves the focus left between the Facets pane, Results pane, and Explorer pane.
  • Closes Item Preview when being displayed in the Explorer pane.

Right Arrow

  • Moves the focus right between the Facets pane, Results pane, and Explorer pane.
  • Opens Item Preview (in Explorer pane) when focus is on a previewable result.

Down Arrow

  • Moves the focus down through the items in the results set (focus initially must be on Results pane).

Up Arrow

  • Moves the focus up through the items in the results set (focus initially must be on Results pane).


  • Functions as a regular tab key. Tabs through all clickable items on the screen.
    • Users on a Mac with Firefox or Safari need a particular system setting in order for tab ordering to function properly: Go to System Preferences  >  Keyboard  >  Shortcuts tab. Select "All Controls" from the "Full Keyboard Access" section.


  • Executes the associated action when focused on a clickable event.
  • Opens/closes expandable menus.


  • Opens/closes expandable menus.


  • Moves the focus to the search box if no supplemental panes (Preview pane, More Facets pane) are open.
  • Closes supplemental panes.

The Randall Library and the UNCW’s Disability Resource Center will continue working with Summon’s vendor to ensure that Summon fully complies with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d) and that it meets Level AA of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Contact for Information Technology and Systems

Library IT and Systems, Web & Discovery Services Librarian
Phone Number: 

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