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Basic search

By default, the library website is set to basic search, where a single query box appears.

With this type of generic search, you may find items with keywords (subject, author, title, date of publication, editor, ISBN), using a single word or phrase with several words.

Basic search examples:

  • margaret atwood
  • nanotechnology
  • indigenous art
  • capital in the twenty-first century

To narrow search results or to initiate a more complex search, choose the advanced search functionality, or use search filters with indexes. To find a specific publication, enter the title and author in the advanced search box.

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Advanced search

This functionality is a more complete form to specify various criteria, which appears by clicking on "Advanced Search", under the magnifying glass icon.

advanced search

Advanced search includes different types of boxes, where users specify their criteria, or "index". This includes different types of information to describe an item (title, author, editor, year of publication, language, ISBN, etc.).

You may add search boxes with the "+ Add row" button.

advanced search screen

Find out more about indexes.

Advanced search includes other options:

  • Search a specific database or group of databases;
  • Narrow results to open access or scientific articles;
  • Request a specific format;
  • Specify a range of publication dates;
  • Select a branch or library
Search tips

To avoid incomplete search results, follow these guidelines for keywords:

Case The case does not affect search results. Keywords are upper case, lower case, or a combination of both. However, Boolean operators must be in upper case.
Stop words Avoid French or English stop words (le, la, les, du, de, des, a, an, but, the, etc.) because the Sofia Discovery tool does not take them into account. Use quotation marks (" ", «») for stop words that must be taken into account with the search.
Example: The = "the".
Punctuation and diacritics Avoid punctuation or diacritical signs.
Example: é=e, à=a, ç=c, ù=u, etc.
Apostrophe (') Avoid apostrophes (') and the letter preceding them, or omit the apostrophe and space between the words preceding and following the apostrophe. To include all variations, link both options with a Boolean OR.
Example: for king's, enter king OR kings
Numbers: Numbers may be entered in numerals or letters.
Hyphens Use hyphens (-) or replace hyphens with a space.
Example: twenty-one, twenty one
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Search tips

With Sofia, you can use different types of operators to define, as accurately possible, your search criteria and language. These operators apply to basic searches and advanced searches.

Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)

Boolean operators are inserted between keywords in a search box or between search boxes to connect or exclude certain words or phrases. For Sofia to recognize them, Boolean operators must be UPPERCASE. Keywords and their Boolean operators are processed left to right.

AND Narrows search results by returning only items that include both words/ phrases connected through the operator.
Example: photography AND war
* If no other operator is entered in the search box, a Boolean AND is by default inserted between the words.
OR Broadens search results by returning items that include either word/phrase connected through the operator.
Example: teen OR adolescent.
NOT Reduces search results by excluding items that include the word/phrase after the operator.
Example: "renewable energy" NOT hydroelectricity

More information on Boolean operators.


Quotation marks

Use French (« ») or English (" ") quotation marks to find an exact phrase or the closest words.


  • "attention deficit disorder"
  • «Philippe Aubert de Gaspé»



An asterisk (*) isolates the root of a word to include all variations or words from the same family. This generally increases search results. At least three letters must precede the asterisk.


  • environment* = environment / environments / environmental / environmentally / environmentalism / environmentalist

More information on truncation



A pound sign (#) or question mark (?) substitutes one or several variable letters in a word. Wildcards broaden search results. At least three characters must precede the wildcard.

The pound sign (#) substitutes only one letter.


  • Thes#s = thesis, theses
  • Wom#n = woman, women

The question mark substitutes several letters (0 - 9).


  • Encyclop?dia = encyclopedia, encyclopaedia

More information on wildcards



Specify the order in which Boolean operators are applied to group keywords. Once the search is launched, Sofia interprets the words and operators in parentheses first, and interprets the words and operators outside the parentheses last.


  • (computer* OR electronic*) AND (waste OR disposal) AND environment*



Most search indexes are displayed in the advanced search window, but you can also enter their abbreviations in the in search boxes (basic or advanced search), and combine them with different operators.

*NOTE: a colon (:) after an abbreviation launches a keyword search in the index, but the equal sign (=) is used to find a specific phrase in the index In the latter case, the phrase must be located at the beginning of the field in question, without any words after, which significantly narrows results. When in doubt, use a colon with quotation marks.


ti=early childhood
means that we’re looking for documents precisely entitled “Early Childhood”. A document entitled "Early Childhood : A Survey of Best Practices" would therefore not be included in the search results.
ti:"early childhood"
searches for the phrase "early childhood" wherever it may be within the title field, even in combination with other words.

The following list includes the most commonly used indexes and their abbreviations:

Author au:shakespeare
au=shakespeare william
Call number nu:PS 3515*
nu=QD 96 M65 M66 2019
ISBN bn:9782742798247
ISSN in:0018-165x
Keyword kw:childhood
kw=early childhood
Language ln:fra
Editor pb:Springer
pb=Cambridge University Press
Subject su:chemistry
su=chemistry, organic
Title ti:Trainspotting
ti=Brave New World
Year of Publication yr:2020
Bar code bq:X38579059
Format x0:artchap
Format abbreviations

Find out more about indexes.

Do not use spaces between index abbreviations and punctuation marks ( : or =), or between punctuation marks and keywords. Ex. : au=shakespeare william

Clicking on index words

Clicking on author (au=), subject (su:) or collection (se:) in items in results lists automatically launches a new index search.

full record in Sofia

Examples of new searches generated by clicking on item links:

  • au=Carr, Deborah S
    (Displays all of the author's publications)

  • se:American Sociological Association's Rose Series
    (Displays all of the collection's publications)

  • su:Aging United States
    (Displays all publications related to the subject matter)

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Facets and sorting to refine a search

Sorting Options

Search results may be sorted by relevance. One of Sofia's unique features is to provide three types of relevance sorting:

  1. Best match: priority is given to the number of times a word appears in the item. Items where the keyword appears most often come up first in the results list.
  2. Recency: priority is given to the publication date of items. However, date is not the only indicator for this type of sorting. Do not confuse it with sorting by date (most recent).
  3. Library: priority is given to items from the user’s library collection.

Other sorting options include:

  • Author (A to Z): search results are sorted alphabetically according to the author's family name and given name.
  • Date (newest first): search results are sorted according to the publication date of the item (most recent to oldest).
  • Date (oldest first): search results are sorted according to the publication date of the item (oldest to the most recent).
  • Most widely held: search results are sorted according to the number of international libraries that hold the item. The most held item is ranked first, and the least held is ranked last.
  • Title (A to Z): search results are sorted alphabetically by title.


Group Related Editions

This option groups several editions in a single result (most recent or oldest copy/different formats), and it avoids duplicates. The Group Related Editions option is set by default.



Facets appear on the left hand side of the search results.

  1. Library: limits the search to collections in one of three library levels – Concordia University Library, Bibliothèques universitaires du Québec, Libraries Worldwide.
  2. Format: limits the search to pre-defined items – books, articles, videos, journals, audio recordings, etc. You may select different types of items.
  3. Content Type: limits the search to certain types of content (scientific paper, open access publication).
  4. Publication Year: limits the search to a specific date or range of dates.
  5. Language: limits the search to a specific language (i.e.: English items only).
  6. Topic: limits the search to a specific topic.
  7. Author/Creator: limits the search to a specific author.
  8. Database: limits the search to specific sources of data.

More information on facets.

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Updated: Monday 26 October 2020
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