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How to search: JSTOR Advance Searching

This guide will show you how to search in the different Unisa Library resources to find relevant information for your research needs

Request a Literature Search

Need sources for your literature review? Struggling to find sources for your assignment, research proposal or thesis?

The Library can assist with a literature search, which is a systematic and comprehensive search for published, academic material on your specific subject/topic. How do you request one? Simply go to Request a literature search .

If you are experiencing problems accessing the form, please use this link


JSTOR Advanced Search Tips

Searching for an Exact Phrase

 If you want to include more than one term in a field search, use parentheses () to enclose your search terms, or quotation marks (" ") to search for an exact phrase.

Example: "american revolution"

The example above searches for the exact phrase "american revolution" rather than treating it as a phrase search (american AND revolution).

 Some other examples:

 ·         ti:cat dog will find the word cat in the item title field and the word dog in any field

·         ti:(cat dog) will find the words cat and dog in the item title field in any order

·         ti:"color purple" will find the exact phrase color purple in the item title field

·         ti:(peacekeeping "united nations") will find the word peacekeeping and the phrase united nations in the item title field


Proximity Searching

 JSTOR search allows you to find terms that are within a set number of words of each other using the tilde (~) symbol.

Example: "debt forgiveness"~10

In this example, you will only get results with the terms debt and forgiveness within ten words of each other.

 In the Advanced Search interface, you may choose Near 5, 10, or 25 words from the drop-down list between search terms

Note: Proximity searches are based on word count only. All punctuation is ignored.


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.

Example: cat^7 dog

In the example above, an occurrence of the word cat in an item is seven times more important than the word dog.

Searching for Plural Terms

JSTOR allows you to search for singular and plural forms of a word at the same time by adding an ampersand to the end of the singular form of a word.

Example: knife&

In the example above, knife& finds knife and knives. More examples of plural searching are:

  •  cat& finds cat and cats
  • bus& finds bus and busses
  • sky& finds sky and skies
  •  person& finds person and people
  •  goose& finds goose and geese


Narrow Search Results with 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.

Example: au:smith

The example above will find all items for which Smith is listed as an author.


Frequently User JSTOR Field Abbreviations










Returns Results From

journal name

item title (not review)

item abstracts

illustration captions

full length articles

journal volumes

book reviews


More JSTOR Field Abbreviations:

 ty: = type of item

ty:fla = full length article ty:brv = book review ty:edi = opinion piece

ty:(nws OR mis) = other items cty:(book) = book cty:pamphlet = pamphlet

ti: titles of items or reviewed works

rt: title of a reviewed work

au: equivalent to searching within both aa and ra fields [ex: au:smith yields same set of results as (aa:smith OR ra:smith)]

so: or jo: journal title

no: issue or number

sn: or in: International Standard Serials Number (ISSN).

gl: grouping level (to search for specific topics as listed in the original print journal table of contents)

la: language

JSTOR uses the Library of Congress's three letter MARC language codes. Here are some examples: la:ara = Arabic

la:chi = Chinese

la:dut = Dutch la:eng = English la:fre = French la:ger = German

la:gre = Greek Modern la:heb = Hebrew

la:ita = Italian la:jpn = Japanese la:lat = Latin

la:por = Portuguese la:rus = Russian la:spa = Spanish

la:swe = Swedish la:tur = Turkish


Combining Search Terms with AND, OR, NOT


You may combine search terms and fields using AND, OR, and NOT (Boolean logic).





When you combine   search terms with AND in a full-text search, your results contain everything in which both terms appear. Combining search terms makes your search results   more precise.


You can explicitly denote   AND in the following ways: cat AND dog, cat && dog,   cat & dog, +cat +dog, (cat   dog)



Using   OR between search terms allows to you find all items   that contain either term. Using OR will search   for items that contain   either the word "cat", the word "dog",   or both.


For example: cat OR dog, cat || dog



Searches using NOT will   only find items that do   not contain the search term following it. To find all items with   the word cat that do not contain   the word dog, search   for: cat NOT dog, cat -dog   (Be sure to include a space before the dash, but not   after)


Searching for Multiple Spellings of a Term

 You can 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.



 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: 

  •  A search with the term te?ts finds the words tents, tests, texts, and any other five-lettered words that start with te- and end with -ts
  • A search on bird* finds bird, birding, birdman, birds, and other words that start with bird-
  • Wildcard characters may be used in a field search: au:sm?th or ti:shakespeare*
  • A search on organi?ation finds organization or organisation
  •  behavior* searches for behavior, behavioral, behaviorist, behaviorism, or behaviorally
  • p*diatric searches for pediatric or paediatric
  • wom?n AND "science education" searches for science education with woman or women or womyn
  • (novel& or fiction) AND feminis* searches for words that start with feminis-, like feminism or feminist, that contain novel or novels or fiction


Note: The closer to the start of a term you use the wildcard, the longer your search will take to process. Using multiple wildcards within a single search term will also result in longer search times.



 Using the number sign (#) after a word stem performs a search that finds all related variations of a term. For example:

  • operate# finds operate, operating, operation, and operative
  • goose# finds goose, geese, and gosling
  •  went# finds went, go, and going


Grouping Combined Search Terms

 Parentheses allow you to determine the order in which terms are combined. The search "currency reform" AND (russia OR "soviet union") will search for items that contain the phrase currency reform and that contain either russia or soviet union.


Without grouping parentheses, the search is interpreted as "currency reform" AND russia OR "soviet union," which returns items containing either both currency reform and russia or containing soviet union. By using parentheses, you may control the grouping of search terms.

 Additional examples:

  • (finch OR sparrow) AND exotic will search for items that contain the word exotic and either the word finch or the word sparrow
  •  (birds OR butterflies) NOT sparrow will search for items that contain either the word birds or butterflies and do not contain the word sparrow
  •  birds NOT (sparrow robin) will search for items that contain the word birds but do not contain both the words sparrow and robin (remember, a space between terms defaults to an AND operator)
  • birds NOT (sparrow OR robin) will search for items that contain the word birds but do not contain either the word sparrow or the word robin

Adapted from: JSTOR Advanced Search Tips