You are here: Begin your Research

Begin your Research

SearchBox is a Google-style search experience for the vast majority of the library’s electronic resources, the WRLC catalog, and other locally available content (e.g. Library Subject Guides, American University Digital Repository). From a single box, SearchBox searches full-text content, article citations, and library catalog records and returns a list of results ranked by relevance.

It is the place to start your search for scholarly journal and newspaper articles, books, videos, maps, manuscript collections, music scores and more. From your search results, it’s just one step to accessing the full text of articles, or to seeing if a book is on the shelf.

Questions about SearchBox


SearchBox retrieves citations from most, but not all, of the library‘s resources; each citation includes a link to either the online version of the item or to a record that indicates where a version is located within the American University Library or other Washington Research Library Consortium institutions. Resources included in SearchBox are as follows:

SearchBox is very useful for a variety of tasks that are more difficult with other search products. For example, it can be useful in any of the following scenarios:

  • As a starting place for your research.
  • If you need to quickly retrieve high quality items on a particular topic.
  • If you are interested in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.
  • If you know the citation of an item and just want to get that article

SearchBox is similar in its simplicity of search, but it offers some advantages over Google Scholar:

  • SearchBox includes database records from sources like ISI Web of Science, so its coverage should be more comprehensive in some areas than Google Scholar.
  • SearchBox is fully integrated with the WRLC Catalog and the library’s electronic resource holdings, so it will direct you automatically to the online version of your article, provide easy access to CLS and ILL links if there's no full-text available, and let you search for locally available materials all at once.
  • SearchBox has a variety of easy export options, including integration with EndNote and other tools used for managing references and bibliographies, to allow you to save your search results.
  • SearchBox defaults to materials that we have access to, unlike Google Scholar – which cannot distinguish between subscribed and non-subscribed content. Selecting the option “Add results beyond your library’s collection” will show you search results that can be requested via ILL.

Yes. In the simple search box, SearchBox offers several search options. For example:

  • You can use the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT, - (minus sign). The AND operator is assumed if you just type in a string of words.
  • To search an exact phrase, use quotation marks. For instance, the query "global warming" will return only results with that phrase.
  • To find multiple spellings of a word, use the wildcards ? and *. The question mark (?) will match any one character. Typing "Ols?n" will therefore search for "Olsen" or "Olson," along with other variations. The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. For example, typing “stereotyp*” will therefore search for “stereotype,” “stereotypes,” and “stereotypical,” along with other variations.

Mouse over the search result entry you would like to save and a click on the folder icon. This adds the entry to the “Saved Items” folder at the bottom of the search results screen; just click on the link to see your saved results. Please note that items you save are only available during your active SearchBox session and will be cleared once you leave the page.


SearchBox does not actually search our databases directly. Instead, it indexes information (often including full-text) from articles, books, and library records, and then directs us to where that content is available – either online or in the library. Over 6,800 publishers are represented in SearchBox, totaling over a half-billion articles from nearly 100,000 journals, newspapers and magazines.

While SearchBox can be very useful in many scenarios, it is less useful for other tasks, such as the following:

  • If you need to retrieve statistical/financial data, do not use SearchBox. (Check the resources listed at our Finance and Real Estate Guide or Statistical Information Guide.)
  • If you need to perform in-depth searches that require extensive use of a database's controlled vocabulary, do not use SearchBox. (Use a subject specific database such as PsycINFO or Sociological Abstracts to complete sophisticated search strategies.)
  • If you need to retrieve results from art image databases (like Art Images Collection or ARTstor) and not just articles about art.

Although SearchBox returns a wide range of results very quickly, you can often be more precise in structuring your search when you do so directly in individual databases; and, remember, SearchBox does not contain absolutely everything that AU subscribes to electronically.

The search refinements to the left side of the search results page are referred to as “facets” and they allow you to narrow your search results by content type, subject term, date, and other categories. Additionally, four standard search options appear at the top left side of the search results. They are:

  • Items with full text online.
  • Limit to articles from scholarly publications, including peer-review.
  • Add results beyond your library's collection.

SearchBox can be used to email, print, or export saved items to EndNote and other bibliographic utilities. Search results can be formatted according to a variety of standard formats, but, be sure to check those formats for current accuracy. Also, any search you conduct in SearchBox can be recreated, along with any refinements using the facets, simply by copying the URL from the browser address bar or clicking on the RSS feed button near the top right of the search results screen.

Additional ways to conduct your research

Search Databases
You can search individual databases without going through SearchBox if you wish
Find Journals
If you have an article citation, you can look for the journal directly
Subject Guides
Looking for the library's resources by subject? Try our subject guides
Browser Extension
LibX (AU Edition) provides direct access to your Library's resources