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USC Libraries Search, Users' Guide: FAQs

This guide will provide information about using the new USC Libraries Integrated Library Management system, Primo.

What Happened to Search?

We have a new library search tool aggregates search results from a number of USC Libraries resources and splits them based on the source and type of content.  If you prefer to directly search our catalog, archives, or website, you can select additional options from the search dropdown above.

What does it search?

USC Libraries Search is a discovery tool that allows you to quickly and easily search across the majority of USC Libraries' print and online collections from a single search box.

Results are relevance ranked and there are numerous options for narrowing and focusing results using facets.

When you use this Search option you are searching:

  • USC Libraries catalog records (books, e-books, government documents, videos, audio recordings and more)

  • Health Sciences Libraries catalog records

  • *Please note, this Search does NOT search Advocat catalog records (Law School Catalog). Please visit Law Library to search the Law School catalog*

  • Articles from most of the Library's print and online journals, magazines and newspapers

  • Content from the majority of the library's full-text databases

  • Records from over 150 of the library's citation databases (including: MLA International Bibliography, ERIC, Web of Science, Hispanic-American Periodicals Index, Sociological Abstracts, and Social Service Abstracts) - records from these databases may show up as "Citation only/ Check for Print" if we do not have full-text online or print access to the content. In these cases you can request an interlibrary loan. 

  • ONE Archive's book and periodical records

  • Shoah Foundation records

  • USC Digital Library content

  • USC Archives & Special Collections Finding Aids

  • Open Access collections (including HathiTrust, DOAJ, American Memory, and Project Gutenberg)

  • The USC Libraries' Website

When should I use this search option?

  • To find that title!  This Search option is great for known item searches.

    • You can simply copy/paste the title of a book, video, or article into the Search box and it should appear at the top of the results if we own or subscribe to it (Because the Search index is so large it is a good idea to use quotes around titles).

    • Search is also great for searching by ISBN,  call number or DOI.

  • When you want to search the USC Libraries University Park Campus and the Health Science Library at the same time-records from these two USC libraries' catalogs are included in the main Search option.

  • When you only need a few sources
    (TIP: treat this Search option as a replacement for large multidisciplinary databases like ProQuest and JSTOR since all ProQuest and JSTOR content is available in USC Libraries Search)

  • When you want to browse and see what has been written on a given topic

  • When you want to browse the contents of a specific journal; you can do this by using the Advanced Search form.

  • For interdisciplinary topics - you don’t have to guess the right database to search or execute the same search in multiple databases from multiple vendors

  • When you want to see if you’ve missed anything in your research using other tools

  • When you are having trouble finding information using your usual sources

  • Really specific, focused or esoteric topics often get results in this Search option because its index is so large.


When should I NOT use USC Libraries Search?

  • When searching for legal sources - they are not well represented in the main Search option - legislation, court cases, law review articles, etc. Use legal databases instead. Additionally, to search the Law Library Catalog (Advocat), visit the Law Library website.

  • When searching for historical newspapers and other primary source materials. See our Research Guide on Primary Sources for help.

  • When searching for statistics or data. It is best to use specialized statistical and data resources

  • When you want to conduct a comprehensive search you will also want to use a subject specific database/index since currently not all citation databases have been indexed. 

  • When you want to use controlled vocabulary or subject terms available from subject specific databases (PsycINFO, ERIC, for example.); also when you want to use specialized limiters available from various databases: For example: searching by historical era (America: History & Life); searching by study type or grade level (ERIC), etc.

What are the advantages of using USC Libraries Search over Google and Google Scholar?

  • USC Libraries Search results can be narrowed using facets: by availability, material type, publication date, database, subject, author/creator, language and more. Google Scholar only allows you to narrow by publication date and by a few content types (articles, legal documents and patents)

  • USC Libraries Search results can be limited to only peer-reviewed journals.

  • Citations in USC Libraries Search can be viewed in 6 citation formats (APA, AMA, MLA, Uniform, Chicago, and Harvard), and can be exported to Refworks, Endnote or BibTex and can be emailed or printed. Google Scholar provides citations for 3 citation formats (APA, MLA & Chicago) and allows you to import to Endnote, Refworks, RefMan or BibTex.

  • You must configure Google Scholar to search USC library subscription content. USC Libraries Search automatically searches only USC Library content and you can expand results to include results beyond USC by selecting the option, "Expand My Results." By doing so, you will be able to discover content held at other institutions that use the same discovery system at USC Libraries.

  • RSS feeds are automatically created for any search you do in USC Libraries Search; you can subscribe to a feed to receive notification when new search results meet your criteria. You can also set up alerts in Google Scholar.

  • Google Scholar does not reveal what scholarly content is covered in its index, so depending on your topic you may be missing out on a great deal of information. ExLibris, the vendor who provides us with USC Libraries Search, does provide us with a list of databases and journals indexed. 

  • Not all content in Google Scholar is actually scholarly. Google relies on its algorithm to retrieve scholarly material on the web and oftentimes non-scholarly and/or non-academic sources will find their way into the results. 

Are there any advantages that Google Scholar has over USC Libraries Search?

  • Google Scholar has a more consistent "Cited by" feature and now offers "Citation Metrics" which allows authors to quickly gage the visibility and influence of recent scholarly articles. USC Libraries Search does show the Web of Science and Scopus "Cited by" features (you must be logged into the USC network to see these citation counts). Neither offer 100% comprehensive citation tracking so if you want to see who cited a specific article use both tools.

  • Google Scholar includes scholarly works from Google Book Search.

  • Google Scholar automatically provides results beyond USC and also provides access to unpublished scholarly works such as pre-prints and drafts of reports (USC Libraries Search does allow you to "Expand My Results" on the results page. This option gives you access to the entire index of ExLibris' Primo discovery service).

  • USC Libraries Search's relevance ranking pales in comparison to Google's excellent PageRank algorithm

What does "Citation Only" mean underneath some results?

USC Libraries Search includes records from over 150 citation databases.  These databases do not provide full text access. If USC does not subscribe to these items through other online databases you will see "Citation Only / Check for Print" underneath the citation letting you know that USC does not have online access to the content.  Click on the link to see if we have the publication in print and if not to request a free Interlibrary Loan.