CLIO Basic Search

The Basic Search screen allows you to search across the holdings of all the Columbia Libraries (excluding Teachers College and the Law Library), using a variety of search types. 

  1. Enter your search terms in the box after "Search".
  2. Choose a type of search from the dropdown list after "within".
  3. If you choose a Keyword or Title search, you can also select a Limit from the drop-down list under the search box. These limits do not work with Author, Subject, Call Number or Series searches.

  4. Then click on the Search button:

More Help with Specific Search Types


This search looks for words anywhere in the record. Keyword searches are a good substitute for a subject search when you do not know the standard subject heading. Results are ranked by relevance, with words in the title, author, or subject given higher priority than words in other parts of the CLIO record. Keyword may also be used as a substitute for a title or author search when you have incomplete title or author information.

  • Enter keywords relating to your topic: prairies ecology
  • Use quotes for a phrase: "victorian britain"
  • For a hyphenated word, use a hyphen or quotes: to find anti-Communist, enter anti-communist or "anti communist"
  • You can search for words with one or more variable characters by using a question mark as a wildcard operator or truncator.
    It can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a query:
          ethiopia? finds ethiopia, ethiopian, ethiopians
          wom?n finds woman or women
          organi?ation finds organization (American spelling) and organisation (British spelling)
          neuro?al finds neuronal, neurological, neurodevelopmental, neurophysiological, etc.
          ?plankton finds plankton, zooplankton, phytoplankton, etc.
  • Do not use the words AND, OR, or NOT between your search terms as operators; they will be searched as keywords
  • For other limits (including library locations, languages, dates, and other formats) use an Advanced search

Title (begins with)

This search retrieves records for books, journals, newspapers, maps, e-books, e-journals, electronic resources, video and sound recordings, etc.

This is the most efficient way to search for known items.

  • Enter words from the beginning of the title: eternal sunshine
  • You can omit all punctuation and capitals: twains puddnhead wilson the development and design, not Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson: The Development and Design
  • It is better to omit the article at the beginning of the title (a, an, the, das, un, el, la, l', etc.) in any language: red and the black, not the red and the black
  • You can use limits to search for specific formats, e.g., electronic resources (ebooks and ejournals), videos, music, archives, etc.
  • If you're unsure of the title, try a keyword search


This search retrieves authors, editors, composers, translators, arrangers, illustrators, etc. An author may be an individual or an organization, institution, government body, conference or symposium. If you are looking for materials about someone or an organization, use a Subject search.

  • For individual authors, enter the author's last name first, and as much as you wish of the first name: hawking ste
  • For organizations or groups, enter name from the start: association of medical librarians, not medical librarians, association of

Journal Title

This search retrieves records for journals, newspapers and other periodicals.

  • Enter journal title from the start: journal of business research, not business research, journal of
  • You can also search by the journal title abbreviation: jbr
  • If you are looking for a journal article but don't know the title of the journal, try the Columbia Libraries view of Google Scholar

Keyword (Boolean)

This search uses the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT to combine the search terms, in order to narrow or broaden the search. You do not have to enter them in capitals.

  • Enter keywords using quotes for a phrase or hyphenated word: "internet marketing"
  • Use ? to truncate: psych? finds psychology, psychological, psychologist, psychiatry , etc.
  • Use AND/OR/NOT to combine terms (more)
  • Use parentheses to group terms or synonyms: ("sri lanka" or ceylon) and (agriculture or farm?)
  • Use keyword codes to be more specific: nkey homer and tkey odyssey (more)
  • You can use limits to search for specific formats, e.g., electronic resources (ebooks and ejournals), videos, music, archives, etc.
  • For other limits (including library locations, languages, dates, and other formats) use an Advanced Keyword search

Subject (begins with)

This search must use terms as they are found in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) list or the National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) list.

  • Enter standard headings from the start:
          sculpture medieval italy
          emigration and immig
          motion pictures
          hemingway ernest
          women india history
          acquired immunodeficiency syndrome therapy
  • If you don't know the standard heading, try a keyword search

Call number begins with

This search will place you in the call number browsing index at the nearest match to the number you have entered. From there you can browse forward or back through the call numbers.

  • Enter as much of the call number as you know: HQ75.8.M55 A3 2006
  • Use this search for Library of Congress call numbers
  • Use a Call Number Exact search for Dewey Decimal, Avery, and other specialized call numbers

Call number exact

This search locates an item by its unique identification number. The call number represents an item's subject matter and indicates the location on the shelf where the item can be found. Call Number Exact searches will result in a list of call numbers matching the number you have entered.

  • Enter as much of the call number as you know: 92D251 D4
  • Use this search for Dewey Decimal, Avery and other specialized call numbers
  • Use Call Number (begins with) for Library of Congress call numbers

Author (Results sorted by title)

This search retrieves materials by author or composer, displayed in a list sorted alphabetically by the title of the work with the various editions grouped together. This search is most useful when locating works by prolific authors or composers, such as Shakespeare or Beethoven, which exist in multiple editions. Do not use this search to find works by a second author, or by editors, performers, contributors, translators, etc. For these, try a plain author search instead.

  • Enter the author's last name first: milton john
  • The different editions are grouped together by title

Series or anonymous work (begins with)

This search finds series titles, or works published under various titles, in a variety of different editions, or with no known author.  It searches the uniform title fields in the cataloging record.  It is particularly useful for finding editions and translations of the Bible and the Qur'an, and also provides cross-references to epics and serials. 

  • Enter a series title: Cambridge imperial and post-colonial studies series
  • Enter an anonymous work: bhagavad gita


This search locates items by their ISBN (International Standard Book Number) or ISSN (International Standard Serial Number). In CLIO, ISBNs do not have dashes, but ISSNs do have dashes. Be careful to enter them into your search correctly.

If you would like further assistance, Ask a Librarian for help.