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CatSearch at Montana State University Library

What is CatSearch

CatSearch provides one stop shopping for journal and newspaper articles, books, audio and video formats, maps, microforms, music scores and more.  It searches most (but not quite all) of MSU Library's databases and products.

CatSearch Coverage

CatSearch includes:                                                                                                                                

  • Items in the MSU Library Catalog
  • Articles from many of our online journals & databases 
  • Reference materials and eBooks from various publishers and aggregators
  • Local digital collections, such as ScholarWorks


General Search Help

What am I searching?

CatSearch searches most of the library's journal content, the library catalog, and ScholarWorks, a collection of articles and research data authored by MSU faculty and students. With CatSearch you are searching peer-reviewed journal articles, books, DVDs, newspapers, and much more.

You can also search the library catalogs of 13 other academic institutions across the state. To do so, select the dropdown menu of the Quick Search and choose "Montana Academic Libraries".


How does it work?

Librarians worry that describing the details of search engines and search systems is like describing how sausage is made (no one really wants to know), but it's very cool. The library has a contract with the company Ex Libris. Ex Libris set up arrangements with most of the major journal and periodical publishers to get detailed information about individual articles. In addition, the library sent Ex Libris the records from our catalog and records for our digital collections. The vendor pulls all this data together, normalizes it, and indexes it into a single database they call Primo and that we branded for Montana State University by renaming it CatSearch.

So, when you search in CatSearch, your query goes to a single database and rapidly brings back results. Then, you can refine on the fly with the facets and tools in the left toolbar.

How do I get to the full text?

Click on the title of what you want. If it is an article, the system should route you to available full-text (made available through the library's subscriptions to article databases and e-journal packages). If the item you want is a book or a print-only periodical, CatSearch will send you to the library catalog to check current availability and locate the call number.

I'm getting too much--how do I narrow it down?

Refine your search. Use the boxes on the left to:

  • ​target only peer-reviewed journals
  • show only items with full text available online
  • include/exclude newspaper articles, books, journal articles, dissertations, and more
  • limit your results by date, language, subject, and more

​Be Specific for best results, e.g. dogs myth history art, not just dogs. Because you are searching across so many resources, you can be more specific in your initial search. Or, you can re-run your search with more keywords.

I want more results--how do I expand my search?

Mark the box on the left labeled "Expand beyond library collections" to search more places and include items not found in the MSU Libraries collection. For items not available in the MSU Library collection, click on the "Check MSU Availability" tab and select "Request It!" to place an interlibrary loan (ILL) request.


How does this differ from Google Scholar?

It's a similar principle, where you send a search to a single database of content pooled from publishers. Google gathers scholarly content from publishers, as Ex Libris (the vendor of our "CatSearch") does. However, Google Scholar does not include books in the library's collection, the library's digital collections, and non-scholarly (but potentially relevant) articles from trade magazines, newspapers, and other sources. As with CatSearch, Google Scholar can link you through to the full text if the MSU Library subscribes to the content for campus.

How do I get to a specific database?

You can always get to a specific database through our Articles & Research Databases link or through a subject guide.

Am I searching everything the library owns?

Maybe not quite everything. This was the closest (and shortest) way we could describe the experience. There are some databases and research tools that are not yet indexed in CatSearch (and we are working on pulling together a list of those resources so you can see what's not in there), and that's partly why direct access to databases will always be maintained. You can get to a specific resource at any time through the Articles & Research Databases page or through the subject guides.

CatSearch covers the entire library catalog, a large percentage of the library's journal content, and lots of digital content.

Detailed Search Help

Boolean Operators

CatSearch offers the following Boolean operations: OR, NOT

  • To use Boolean operators within a search, you must enter them in uppercase letters. Otherwise, CatSearch removes them and performs a simple search that includes all search phrases. The use of these ALL CAPS characters can be used to make queries more specific. By default, all terms in a search are combined with the AND operator. 
  • To expand the results set, use the ORoperator: microcircuits OR nanocircuits will return items that contain either term.  
  • This can be combined with phrases such as “teacher education” OR “educator training.” 
  • To exclude items in CatSearch, use the NOT operator before a term. When used in the following query “animal NOT dog” the results will not include the term “dog.”


Searches within CatSearch can be performed using the wildcards ? and *

  • The question mark (?) will matchany one character and can be used to find “Olsen” or “Olson” by searching for “Ols?n.”
  • The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. A search for “Ch*ter” would match “Charter,” “Character,” and “Chapter.” When used at the end of a word, such as “Temp*,” it will match all suffixes “Temptation,” “Temple” and “Temporary.” 
  • Wildcards cannot be used as the first character of a search. 


Phrase searching:
Enclose the phrase in quotes to retrieve words next to each other in the specified order:  “citizen journalism”  

You can combine both words and phrases in your search.

Grouping terms:

You can use parentheses to group terms within a query. For example, to search for Shakespeare and either tragedy or sonnet, type the following in the search box: shakespeare (tragedy OR sonnet)


Using CatSearch


In the CatSearch box enter your search terms and click on the magnifying glass to conduct a search.

Note: Use "quotation marks" arounds words to search them as a phrase.  Use an asterisk (*) to retrieve all variations of a word.  For example, politic* will find results with the words politics, political, politicize etc. A question mark (?) can be used to perform a single character wildcard search. For example, type wom?n to search for records that contain the strings woman, women, and so forth.

To learn more about the e-ShelfRSS feeds, and alerts, see CatSearch Help.


 Reading Your Search Results Page

Your default search will include items in the catalog, articles, and other types of media. Click on the Books+ or Articles+ tab to refine your search accordingly.




Select from the various options on the left side of the screen to refine your results to peer-reviewed journals, subject, author, and so forth.




When searching for articles, click on the title to retrieve full-text. You can also preview the article by selecting the "View Online" tab.

The "Recommendations" tab features relevant literature based on data compiled by other similar searches.



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