Search Tip: If at first you don’t succeed…

The search engine in the library catalog is not very forgiving with spelling errors or typos. If your search yields fewer or different results than you were hoping for, try a different angle.

  • Apostrophes are important!
  • Use Fewer Words/Omit Words: Sometimes we misread or mistype the smaller words in a title. In the library catalog, this could lead to zero results. For example, if you want to find “Atlas of ultrastructure of streptomyces” but you type “Atlas for ultrastructure of streptomyces,” that would yield zero results. This small error, and others like it, could easily be overlooked, so sometimes it’s best to take the content words (as opposed to function words) and use those to gain your result. Here you might be better off using just “ultrastructure” and “steptomyces” to find what you are looking for.
  • Search with citation information other than title: If a title search yields no results, try searching by author, editor, or ISSN/ISBN number (which you can usually find through a simple internet search).
  • Change the order of results: Results are sorted by “Relevance” as the default, but you may find it helpful to change the top results to “Newest to Oldest” or “Most Popular.” Use the dropdown menu at the upper right of the results page to change the sort order.

Results Screenshot


  • Sometimes the library really doesn’t have what you are looking for. In that case:
    • Suggest the library purchase it by filling out this form (many of our new acquisitions come from these requests – they don’t just vanish into a black hole!)
    • Check to see if Washington University’s Danforth Campus holds it. The Becker Library catalog is currently not integrated with the other University Libraries catalogs. So if your search yields zero results, you will see a screen offering options. Clicking the “Danforth Campus Olin Library” link will send your search to their catalog. If they have this you can request it through our Interlibrary Loan service (free to WashU users).

No Results Screenshot


  • Request the item from another library’s collection using our Interlibrary Loan service. When items are coming from outside of Washington University a portion of the fee is passed on to the library patron.