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University of Portland Clark Library

HST 300: Introduction to Historical Methods: JSTOR Search Tips

Basic Searching in JSTOR

JSTOR supports full-text keyword searching across all of the content on the site. The default setting for search results is to show matches for only content licensed or purchased by the library. A researcher may choose to change this setting for their own session.

  • Place words within quotation marks to search for exact phrases (“to be or not to be”).
  • Use Boolean operators to construct a better search (“tea trade” AND china).
  • Wildcards: Wildcards take the place of one or more characters in a search term. A question mark is used for single character searching. An asterisk is used for multiple character searching. Wildcards are used to search for alternate spellings and variations on a root word. Wildcard characters cannot be used in place of the first letter of a word or within an exact phrase search. For example:

    wom?n finds the words woman, women, womyn,
    bird* finds bird, birding, birdman, birds, and other words that start with bird
    organi?ation finds organization or organisation
    behavior* searches for behavior, behavioral, behaviorist, behaviorism, or behaviorally

    You can combine search terms containing wild cards (wom?n AND "science education") and they may be used in a field search: au:sm?th or ti:shakespeare* 

  • Not sure of the spelling? Find words with spellings similar to your search term by using the tilde (~) symbol at the end of a search term. For example, ti:dostoyevsky~ helps find items with dostoyevsky in the item title field, as well as variant spellings like dostoevsky, dostoievski, dostoevsky, dostoyevski, dostoevskii, dostoevski, etc. Note: This way of searching encompasses a very large number of words. Narrowing this kind of search to the item title or another field is recommended. The first letter always remains the same.

Advanced Searching in JSTOR

  • Use the drop-down boxes to combine search terms using the Boolean operators, AND/OR/NOT and NEAR 5/10/25. The NEAR operator looks for the combinations of keywords within 5, 10, or 25 words places of each other. The NEAR operator only works when searching for single keyword combinations. For example, you may search for cat NEAR 5 dog, but not "domesticated cat" NEAR 5 dog.
  • If you limit your search to the abstract field, you will search only a subset of the journal content on JSTOR. JSTOR doesn't create abstracts for content that was published without them; abstracts exist for only about 10% of the articles. Abstracts tend to be more common in certain disciplines (social sciences, sciences) and in more recently published content.
  • Captions are searchable for much, but not all of the image content on JSTOR. Some images do not contain captions.
  • Use the “Narrow by” options to search only articles, include/exclude book reviews, search for content published during a particular time frame, or in a particular language.
  • You can focus an article search in specific disciplines and titles using the checkboxes in the discipline list under the "Journal Filter" section. Important to know: discipline searching is currently only available for searching journal content. Selecting this option will exclude ebooks from the search.

Using Field Abbreviations

You can narrow search results to a variety of item or journal information. This is possible because JSTOR uses fields for categorization of metadata. Each field is represented in a search by its abbreviation. The example above (au:smith) will find all items for which Smith is listed as an author. Appending ty:fla to a search ("great gatsby" ty:fla) will limit a search to full-length articles, and ty:brv will limit a search to book reviews. 

Other frequently used field abbreviations are:

Code and field searched

Example

jo:

Journal title field

jo:econometrica

ta:

Article title field (does not search books title field)

ta:modernism

ab:

Item abstract field (please note that only about
10% of articles on JSTOR include abstracts)

ab:microfinance

ca:

Illustration caption field

ca:rembrandt

vo:

Journal Volume field

vo:134

 

Other less commonly used field abbreviations include:

cty:(book) = book
cty:pamphlet = pamphlet
rt: title of a reviewed work
so: or jo: journal title
no: issue or number
sn: or in: International Standard Serials Number (ISSN)

JSTOR Quick Tips

  • Search for an exact phrase by enclosing it in quotation marks: "to be or not to be"
  • Use "Advanced Search" to limit searches by publication dates, type of content, and fields such as author and caption title.
  • From an article page, select button image to  copy and paste the citation in Chicago, MLA, or APA style.
  • Publication dates on JSTOR range from 1665 to the present, but not all titles have current issues on JSTOR. Contact us if you don't find what you need.

Search Relevance

Search Relevance

Relevance on JSTOR is a combination of many things. Key elements include:

  • More unique terms in the text result in higher scores when searches contain those terms. For example, the keyword “epistemology" gets a greater boost than “university” because it is less common.
  • Phrase matches are boosted higher than just keyword matches. A search for "the quick brown fox" will assign higher relevance to a document containing the exact words "the quick brown fox" than a document containing "the brown fox is quick."
  • More recent content is given a slight boost.

Proximity Searching

JSTOR search allows you to find terms that are within a set number of words of each other using the tilde (~) symbol. In this example ("debt forgiveness"~10), you will only get results with the terms debt and forgiveness within ten words of each other. You can replace "10" with a different number of words.

Boosting Term Relevance

You may increase the importance of any term in your search by using the caret (^) symbol followed by a number that represents the rise in relevance. In the example above (cat^7 dog), an occurrence of the word cat in an item is seven times more important than the word dog.

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