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Using WorldCat

What is WorldCat? | Getting Started - The Advanced Search Screen | The Results Screen | Item Information Page | Filtering Results by Edition | Changing your location | The "Cite this item" button | More Information

What is WorldCat?

WorldCat is "the world's largest network of library content and services." By searching for library materials on WorldCat, you can find books, journal articles, and other library materials in libraries around the world. WorldCat makes trying to find books much more convenient, as you can see results in multiple libraries without having to go to every single library's website OPAC (Online Catalog) to check for items. In this tutorial, we will help you learn to use this powerful tool to make your research easier.


Getting Started - The Advanced Search Screen

The Advanced Search screen is where you will go to start searching for books. This is the first screen that you will see after clicking on the WorldCat links on the library home page. Entering your searches in WorldCat is very similar to searching in CSUDH's Torofind Catalog.

There are two parts to the Advanced Search screen, both of which you can use to make your search more specific.

The first of these parts is the top half, where you enter your actual search terms.

The top of the advanced search screen, showing options to search by author, keyword, title, subject, and ISBN

There are 5 different text fields here that you can use to enter your search terms.

  • Keyword - A Keyword search will try to find the term you enter anywhere in the item records.
  • Title - A Title search will only look in the titles of each item for the term you enter.
  • Author - Search for items by a specific author. You can enter last name, first name, or both.
  • Subject - A Subject search will look for items which have been labeled as having your search term as a subject.
  • ISBN/ISSN/OCLC Number - If you are looking for a specific book or journal, you can enter it's International Serial Book/Serial Number here. Every item in OCLC also has a specific OCLC number associated with it.
Note that you can enter terms in any of the boxes you wish. (e.g. you can search for any book by "Adam Smith" with "Economy" in the title.)

The bottom half of the Advanced Search screen gives you a series of options with which you can limit your search results.

The bottom of the advanced search screen, showing options to limit your search by format, date, content type, target audience, and language

There are also 5 different fields here by which you can limit results.

  • Format - By using this option, you can tell WorldCat to only show you books, journals, audio files, and various other types of item. Click the drop-down menu on the WorldCat advanced search screen to see a full list.
  • Publication Date - By entering years into one or both of these text fields, you can limit what WorldCat will show you by date.
  • Content - You can choose to only see items which fall into the categories of Fiction, Non-fiction, Biography, and Theses/Dissertations.
  • Audience - You can limit your results to only show books for children or to only show books which are not for children.
  • Language - By selecting an option from this drop-down menu, you can tell WorldCat to only give you results written in a specific language

All of these limiters are optional, but they can greatly improve your search efficiency


The Results Page

After you have clicked the "Search" button, you will be taken to a page that shows you items which were found for your search. This is the "results" page. On it, you have several options. You can limit what WorldCat shows you on the left-hand side, change how the results are sorted, and click on one of the items that was found in order to learn more about it.

An overview of the results screen

The results page is split into several sections listed below:

  • Searching and Sorting (top section) - You can perform another search or sort the results of your current search by relevance, author, title, or date.
  • Refine your Search (left section) - You can choose to see results within your current search by certain authors, formats, years of publication, language, topic, and more.
  • Search Results (main section) - These are the results of your search. You can click on the book (or journal) you want and see which libraries have it.

Item Information Page

The screen you will see after clicking on an item in the results list is the item holdings screen. From this screen you can access library catalogues from various libraries and see which libraries have a certain item. The item holdings screen is split into two parts.

The top half of the item holdings screen shows you specific information about the item you are viewing.

The top half of the item holdings screen, showing information about the item's format, publisher, editions, ISBN, subjects, and a citation tool.

This top half shows you several options:

  • Type: This will show you whether the item is a book, journal, electronic resource, or something else. It also lists the language in which the item is written/recorded.
  • Publisher: Who published the book, where it was published, and when it was published.
  • Editions: If there is more than one edition, you can click this link to see a listing of all the editions available for this work. You can filter your results by edition in the bottom half of the screen (see filtering by edition, below, for more information)
  • ISBN and OCLC numbers: These numbers can help you in finding the item again, either in libraries or book stores (for the ISBN) or on WorldCat (for the OCLC number).
  • Related Subjects: You can click on these subjects to see a list of items which are about similar things to the item you are currently viewing.
  • Citations: You can use these three links to get a citation for this item in a number of styles. (see citations from WorldCat, below, for warnings and more information).

The bottom part of the item holdings screen shows you which libraries have that item.

The bottom half of the items holding screen, which shows you where you can find the item, more details about the item, and lets you click into a specific library's OPAC to find the item you want.

This half of the screen has several different options it can display, but the default is the "Libraries" tab, where you will be spending most of your time when using WorldCat. The Libraries screen shows the following:

  • A place to enter location information (e.g. a city/state or zip code) - This allows you to re-organize the results to show libraries closer to any location you wish.
  • Edition filter - By clicking "Just this edition", you will see a list only of the edition you have currently selected. (see filtering by edition, below, for more information)
  • A list of libraries which have the item you are searching for, sorted by distance from the location entered above.

Some of the other tabs at the bottom half of the screen can be useful as well. They include:

  • Details: Here you can see information about the item including length, physical size, a brief summary, and other things.
  • Reviews: This screen shows you reviews about the item from WorldCat, Amazon, and weRead.
  • Related Items: This screen shows you other items which are similar to the one you are currently viewing.

Filtering Results by Edition

If you are looking for a specific edition of an item, you will need to filter your results on the item holdings screen. By default, that screen will display libraries which have all editions of the item for which you have searched. You can limit it to a single edition by following the steps below:

  1. In the top half of the item holdings screen, click the link which says how many different editions are available.
    the location of the 'editions' link
  2. On the following screen, select the edition you want to view.
    a list of editions for an item
  3. When you return to the bottom half of the item holdings screen, you will see a list of libraries which have only the edition you selected.
  4. Note that the "Just this edition" text at the top of your results list has been bolded, which lets you know you are not seeing all editions. To see all editions again, click the "Any Edition" link.
    the location of the 'just this edition' text and 'any edition' link

Changing your location

One of the nice things about WorldCat is that you can change which location it associates you with, and see results in various parts of the state, country, or even world.

The easiest way to change your location in WorldCat is from the item holdings screen, where you can simply type in your zip code in the "Enter Location Information" box, pictured below. After you have typed your zip code, hit "Go" and your location will be set.
the location of the 'enter Location Information' box

Jumping to a library catalogue for a book

If the item you were searching for is a book, you can access a library's catalogue simply by clicking on that library's name in the list of results on the item holdings screen.

The bottom half of the items holding screen, showing a link to CSUDH's library catalogue.

For example, clicking California State University, Dominguez Hills in the example above would take you straight to that book's record in Torofind


Jumping to a library catalogue for a journal article

If the item you were searching for is a journal article, you will need to click elsewhere on the item holdings screen to go into a library's catalogue and access the item.

The location of the link to access journal articles, just before the location box.

By clicking the link shown in the image above, you will be taken directly into CSUDH's journal article databases, allowing you to access any article we have from anywhere you have internet access. Note that if you click the library's name in the list for a journal article, you will not be taken to the article itself.


The "Cite this item" button

One useful tool that WorldCat offers is the "Cite this item" button. This button will give you an item's citation information in APA, Chicago, Turabian, MLA, and Harvard styles.

The location of the 'cite this item' button, just under 'related subjects' on the item holdings screen

There is one warning, however: The citation you receive is only as valid as the information entered into the worldcat database. If you use the citation tool and the information entered is wrong, your citation will be wrong as well! For this reason, it is always important to double-check the information in a WorldCat-generated citation before you include it in your paper.

An example of citations for a book on Quetzalcoatl

More Information

More information can be found on the WorldCat Help website.