Help with Summon

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Summon is the Libraries’ primary search tool, designed to search our print and many of our online resources in one place. Summon is intended to be a starting place for research, but there are other tools available to you.

Summon Help

Most of the journal, magazine and newspaper resources available through library databases, as well as the Classic Catalog, the Syracuse University Digital Collections and the SURFACE repository. Other types of materials, such as dissertations and theses and library Research Guides are also included. Summon also searches the full-text content of the SU Libraries' e-book collections and Google Books.

  • Includes articles, books, journals, maps, sound recordings, archival materials, government documents and more
  • Use for article searching
  • Narrow or expand results using multiple search refinements (see tips for Advanced Searching below)

See the Summon Coverage Table below for details.

Some information from databases is not included in Summon. Specialized or comprehensive research should be done in the Libraries' subject-specific databases and using the Libraries' Classic Catalog. For information about which databases are best for your subject area, consult a Research Guide or contact a Subject Librarian.

Everyone. However, some resources that are only licensed for authorized Syracuse University affiliates require users login with your SU NetID and password.

  • Type the title of the book into the search box. Try using quotation marks around the words in the title. For example, “Solar Cells and Light Management: Materials, Strategies and Sustainability”.  
  • If you’re still having trouble, in the left column of the search results, under Content Type, click on Book/eBook.  
  • You can also search for a portion of the title in case a special character or variation in the title is throwing off the search. For example, “Solar Cells and Light Management”. You could also try adding in the author or editor’s last name, “Solar Cells and Light Management” and Enrichi.  
  • If you’re still not finding the book, try checking the box at the top right of the search results “Add results beyond Syracuse University Library's collection”. It’s possible that we don’t own the book and you may need to order it from another library using Interlibrary Loan.  

In the left column of the search results, under Content Type, limit your results by clicking on Book/eBook or Book Chapter.

If you've selected the Full Text Online link but didn't get the full text:

  • Try to access the article by going through the Journal Locator and searching for the title of the journal or publication, not the title of the individual article itself. If we have online access to that journal, the title will show up in the search results and include details for how to access it. Under the Journal Details, look at the date range(s) listed and match it to the publication date of the article you’re trying to find, then click on the link next to the publication date. This should take you to the journal page where you can search for the title of your article, or drill down by year, volume, issue number to find the article you need.
  • If the above options don't work, contact us to report the problem and get help accessing the article.
  • It’s possible that SU Libraries does not subscribe to the journal that the article is published in. If this happens, you can request a copy of the article through Interlibrary Loan.

It generates a map of the book's approximate shelf location to help you find books in the library. For example, if you select the "Map it!" button for a book on the 4th floor of Bird Library, a map of the 4th floor with the shelving row for that book highlighted and a list of step-by-step directions for locating the shelf will open.

Creating effective searches and choosing relevant search terms is a complex process and different for every information need.

  • Refine your search using facets, listed to the left of your search results 
  • "Peer Reviewed" -- limits sources to peer-reviewed journals 
  • "Content type" -- this controls whether your search results include or exclude source types such as books/ebooks, streaming audio, newspaper articles, etc. Click on “more” to see all content types, and click the checkboxes to include or exclude content types from your search
  • Publication date – drag the date slider to limit to current research (published in the most recent 5-10 years) or select a specific date range of older materials if you want to find what was written about a topic in the past (often useful for news articles about specific events)
  • Subject terms and area of study – limits sources to a specific subject field. If you’re searching for “salsa,” do you want dancing or food?  
  • Try using quotation marks around keywords that are a phrase. For example: 
    • global warming without quotation marks will find all records that have green and building, but not necessarily beside each other
    • "global warming" with quotation marks will find only records that have the exact phrase "global warming"
  • Try the Advanced Search.

If you're still having trouble, contact us or reach out to your subject librarian for help.

Classic Catalog is the main inventory of books, journal titles (print and online), media and other documents held in Syracuse University Libraries' collections. It contains over 4.9 million records. The Classic Catalog provides more control over which field you are searching, allowing you to search by author, title, call number, location, etc., alone or in combination with each other, and to browse by subject headings (e.g., "United States -- Politics and government -- Twentieth century").

Summon is a search engine that searches every record in the Classic Catalog, plus scholarly and newspaper articles from many of our subscription databases such as ProQuest, plus SU Libraries digital collections and many other sources. Summon excels at quick keyword searches (what does the library have on this topic?) and lookups ("does the library own this?"), and at providing a comprehensive view of all types of information that are accessible to you.

No, Summon doesn't search SU Libraries databases directly. It searches metadata collected from SU Libraries sources as well as hundreds of publishers and information vendors we work with to build our library collections. The list of participating metadata sources is constantly changing, and not all publishers and vendors can provide metadata that is compatible, so it is difficult to provide an exact list or description of what is searchable in Summon. 

This checkbox modifies the search to include the entire Summon index, including resources to which Syracuse University does not subscribe. Clicking one of these items will take you to the SULinks request options for the item.

To display information from the library catalog, Summon connects to the catalog in real time, however there is a 35-second time limit. When the system reaches this limit, Summon displays a "Check availability" link for everything it was not able to retrieve before the timeout. Clicking the "Check availability" link will display the catalog record with the complete information.

Since Summon searches the full text of e-books, including novels, you may get some results that seem out of place or irrelevant. Try using quotation marks around your search phrase, which is often sufficient to remove these sorts of results. You might also try limiting by date using either the Date slider or the Time Period facet. Additionally, you can also specifically Exclude items from different facets, including Author.

There are many different reasons why:

  • There may be an error in the citation.
  • Not all publishers can specify Year, Volume, Issue and Starting page number from a citation.
  • There is no full-text version of the item available online.
  • SU Libraries does not have a subscription to the online version of the journal.
  • In the case of a very recent article, the text may not yet be loaded on the publisher's website.

If this happens, try accessing the journal through the Journal Locator and searching for the e-journal directly. From there you can manually enter the Year, Volume, Issue and Starting page into the e-journal dialog, search by title or author, or go to the relevant issue and browse the list of articles. If SU does not have a subscription to the journal, you can request a copy of the article through Interlibrary Loan.

Summon Coverage Table

Type of Information Source or Publisher Estimated Coverage Additional Locations to Search
All physical items i SU Libraries (print books, maps, scores, CDs, DVDs, print dissertations SU Libraries Class Catalog 100%
Print journals and periodicals SU Libraries Class Catalog 0% journal contents (no article-level searching) Search within subject-specific periodical databases listed in Databases Menu (
E-Books various 90-95% Search within publisher-specific e-book collections listed in our Databases Menu
E-Journals and E-Periodicals from major publishers Oxford, Elsevier, SAGE, Springer, Cambridge, Taylor & Francis, etc. 90-95% Search within subject-specific periodical databases listed in our Databases Menu
E-Journals and E-Periodicals from smaller publishers and historical collections various 0-85%, varies by publisher Search within subject-specific periodical databases listed in our Databases Menu
Streaming video, streaming audio, images Alexander Street Press (AVON), Kanopy, SU Libraries, Docuseek,, Medici.TV, others 80-100% Alexander Street Press; 100% hosted by SU Libraries; 0% other sources Search within video, audio and image databases listed in our Databases Menu
Digital Primary Source Archives Adam Matthew, Gale, Alexander Street Press, Early English Books, Early European books, others 0-10% Search within subject-specific databases listed in our Databases Menu
Statistics and data; maps, engineering standards various 0-10% Search within databases suggested on our Research Guides for Numeric Data Resources, Maps and Cartographic Resources, Standards
News and newspapers ProQuest, East View, Gale, Readex, others 90-95% ProQuest; Others vary 0-70% Search within databases suggested on our Research Guide for Newspapers and within the News and Newspapers database listed in our Databases menu
Market, industry, company, and consumer reports; business profiles; business case studies various 0-10% Search within databases suggested on our Research Guides for Business Information and Public Relations

Advanced Searching

The single search box in Summon (basic search box or keyword search box in advanced search) will search across many fields automatically. For example, entering an ISBN, ISSN or Call Number will bring back associated records.

You can search for a term in a specific field by entering the name of the field followed by a colon and the string you want to search. For example:


Fields that can be searched directly are:

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

Using Boolean search syntax (AND, OR, NOT) will bypass features of the Summon relevancy system (for example, stemming, proper name matching and so on). As a result, Boolean results will not mirror the results of non-Boolean queries. Boolean searches, depending on how they are written, can either limit or expand your search.

  • The operators must be written in all capital letters to ensure that they are interpreted correctly by the system.
  • In a query containing both AND and OR operators, AND is processed first, followed by OR. If a query contains parentheses, operators within parentheses are processed first, and then precedence rules are processed from left to right.
  • Ampersand (&): Is equated with the appropriate word for "and" in all supported languages except Korean, Japanese and Chinese where it is not necessary. In German "&" is treated as "UND".

When two or more terms or expressions are adjacent with no intervening Boolean operator, an AND is assumed. For example, if you search for:

earthquake fault

you will get the same results when you search for

earthquake AND fault

To expand the results, use the OR operator. For example, if you search for:

microcircuits OR nanocircuits

your results will include items containing either term or both terms.

To search for phrases, enclose the phrase in quotes. Use any of the operators combined with phrase searches. For example, if you search for

"teacher education" OR "educator training"

your results will include either complete phrase.

To exclude items in a Summon search, use the NOT operator or minus sign (-) character before a term. For example, the query

mustang NOT animal

will exclude items that refer to the horse, but will include references to the Ford Mustang.

You can add parentheses to nest expressions within a query. For example:

(Paint OR Glass) Applied

is the same as a search for

(Paint OR Glass) AND Applied


Paint OR Glass Applied

is different. This is the same as a search for

Paint OR (Glass AND Applied)

Wildcard searches expand a search and will increase the number of results returned. Summon supports two wildcards: the question mark (?) and the asterisk (*). Wildcards cannot be used as the first character of a search.

The question mark (?) will match a single character. For instance, the search "wom?n" will find both "woman" and "women."

The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. A search for "sustainab*" will match "sustainable" and "sustainability."

Proximity searches limit result to terms within a specified number of words from each other. To perform a proximity search, enclose your search terms in quotes and use the tilde (~) followed by a number indicating the distance you want to allow between the search terms.

For example: "yeast bread"~10 finds material where "yeast" and "bread" appear within 10 words of each other.

NOTE: proximity searching does not take the order of search terms into account. In this example, the search "boron nanotubes potassium"~6 yields results in which the three search terms appear within six words of each other in any order.