How to Search

Why not just Google

Searching the library resources

EBSCO Discovery Service

Through our Discovery Service you may find most of the library's online content, this is our main indexing service and you will find most of our resources collected here. The Discovery Service has many search features that are good to familiarise yourself with.

For example: advanced searching, limiting and filtering by for example source type, publication year or source. 

Database list A-Z

In our list of databases you can find all the databases that the library subscribes to. This is an excellent resource, if you know what topic you are interested in you can just go straight to a databases relevant to you. 

E-publication finder

The EBSCO E-publication finder contains all electronic publications available through EBSCO. This is a good resource if you are looking for a specific journal for example. It can also be useful if you are looking for a particular article which you cannot find in the Discovery Service; look up the journal which it is published in and use the E-publication finder to see if we subscribe to this journal. 

Getting a full text

The library pulls resources from many different vendors, because of this getting full text access can look a bit different. 

  • Make sure you are logged in to your WMU gmail account
  • Click full text link, this may look like any of these:

Full Text Finder...

PDF Full Text

View record in DOAJ

  • Some of these links will redirect you to a page where you will have to search for the text again

Advanced searching

Field delimiting

One technique for narrowing your search is to limit your terms to a single field. Many databases have an option to limit your terms to Author, Title or Subject fields, meaning they would not be searched across the document, but only the fields you specify. Often a database will have an Advanced search option that lets you put different terms in different fields so that you can limit your search, for instance to Author=Christopher Hill and Title=Arrest of ships.

Phrase searching

Phrase searching refers to searching for words in exact order as a single string, rather than searching for each word separately. In most databases, a phrase is designated by quotation marks as in:

"United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea"

This exact phrase must appear in the document in order for it to be returned in our search results. Phrase searching is an important tactic when you need to limit your results.


Many databases allow you to provide a character to represent one or more characters following your term, in order to catch variations of the word and plurals. In most databases (but not all), it is represented by an askerisk symbol (*). For instance:


Would retrieve documents containing the word sefarer, seafarers, seafaring. 


A wildcard is a substitution of a single character (or no character) and can be used to catch variations in spelling.


Would retrieve documents with the word "Labor" or "Labour." Wildcard symbols might not be avialable in some databases, and the choice of characters can vary according to database, so be sure to look this up in the help. Truncation and wild cards are fairly surgical means of expanding your search results.

Boolean Searching

When not otherwise specified by the user, a search term with multiple words will by default AND those words together. Any item in the results must include "Christopher" AND "Hill." The boolean operator AND will always be a narrowing influence because ALL words in the term must appear in the document. Of course, when you are searching full-text databases and/or documents with millions of items, a simple AND search might not seem to be limiting your results, but if you were to search for "Christopher" without adding the word "Hill", or vice-versa, your search results would almost certainly be greater than when using both terms.

OR, on the other hand, will increase the "comprehensiveness" of the results over using any single term. The document either contains the word "Christopher" OR it contains the word "Hill" (or both). If you find that your search is too narrow, you can expand it by using OR. For example, a search for:

Author="Christopher Hill" AND Title=("Law" OR "Ships")

would pull up Christopher's book on Maritime Law and his book on Arrest of Ships. Note the parenthesis around the OR phrase. When the advanced search of a database allows you to specify different fields in which to place your terms, you would likely not need parentheses. If, however, you were searching in a single box, your results could be very different without parentheses.

Author="Christopher Hill" AND Title="Law" OR "Ships"

Would retrieve anything by Christopher Hill with the word Law in the title, but it might also retrieve anything with the word Ships in the title, whether or not it was authored by Christopher Hill. The parentheses ensures the logical groupings.

Not might not alter your search results, but when it does it will limit them. If for example, you searched:

Author=Christopher Hill NOT Publisher=World Maritime University

The results would be the same, because there are no works authored by Christopher Hill and Published by WMU. On the other hand:

Subject = Piracy NOT Copyright

Would likely limit your search results in an appreciable and relevant way.


Many of the databases the library offers have hundreds of thousands of records and it is as much an art as it is a science to try to sift through them to limit your results only to pertinent items without missing anything of relevance. It is usually tradeoff between precision and comprehensiveness. This is where putting the limiting and including techniques together in combination can be very useful, particularly with the discovery service, where the possible items retrieved can be in the tens of millions. Although the example below shows what is going on "under the hood," (and can still be done by experienced users in databases offering "command line" searching), fortunately, most web-based interfaces will offer appropriate text fields and pull down menus to achieve the same results.