Skokie Public Library's Guide to...
OCLC FirstSearch

OCLC's FirstSearch is an interactive online information system containing timely information about books, journal articles, Internet sites, reference book entries, computer software, films, and other materials in your subject area from a wide variety of sources. The information in FirstSearch available at Skokie Public Library is divided into fourteen databases.

[space]Available everywhere with your
Skokie Public Library card

Database Descriptions

FirstSearch includes the following databases:  
    ArticleFirst Index of articles from more than 12,500 journals
    ECO Index of over 2,000 scholarly journals
    ERIC Journal articles and reports in education
    GPO Index of U.S. government publications
    ILGC Catalog of books and other materials in Illinois libraries
    MEDLINE Summaries of articles from medical journals
    PapersFirst An index of papers presented at conferences
    Proceedings An index of conference publications
    UnionLists Catalog of magazines in libraries worldwide
    WorldAlmanac World Almanac Book of Facts; full contents available
    WorldCat Catalog of books and other materials in libraries worldwide

  • ArticleFirst is an index of tables of contents from more than 12,000 journals on science, technology, medicine, social science, business, the humanities, and popular culture. It includes items from 1990 to the present and is updated daily.
  • ECO (Electronic Collections Online) is an index to a growing collection of more than 4,500 scholarly journals in a variety of subject areas. Many but not all articles are available in full text. Items are included from 1995 to the present, but this varies by title. This index is updated daily.
  • ERIC (Educational Resource Information Center) is an index to thousands of articles on education from journal articles, reports, books, theses, curricula, conference papers, and standards and guidelines. This database includes items from 1966 to the present and is updated monthly. No full text articles are available in this database. Several colleges in the Chicago area have ERIC documents on microfilm.
  • GPO (Government Printing Office) provides information on subjects related to, and published by, the United States government, including congressional reports, hearings, debates, judiciary materials, and documents issued by the executive branch. Many of these items can be viewed by looking at microfiche records available from depository libraries. Items are included from 1976 to the present. Updated monthly.
  • ILGC (Illinois Group Catalog) is a catalog of books, periodicals, maps, music, and other materials found in Illinois libraries.  Each item is described, and a list of libraries owning the item is provided. ILGC is a subset of WorldCat.
  • MEDLINE is an index of article summaries from 9,500 international medical journals from 1965 to the present; the database is provided by the National Library of Medicine. Only a few full text articles are available in this database.
  • PapersFirst is an index of papers presented at conferences, expositions, and symposia held internationally since October 1993. This database can be searched by subject of paper, author, journal, or title. It is updated twice a month. No full text articles are available in this database. PapersFirst is a companion to Proceedings. Search PapersFirst if you know an author or paper topic; search Proceedings if you are searching for publications from a specific conference.
  • Proceedings is an index of conference, exposition, and symposium publications since October 1993. The database can be searched by conference name or location, or by subject of conference. It is updated twice a week. No full text articles are available in this database. Proceedings is a companion to PapersFirst. Search PapersFirst if you know an author or paper topic; search Proceedings if you are searching for publications from a specific conference.
  • UnionLists provides listings of holdings for journals owned by local libraries and libraries around the world. It can help you determine if a library holds a specific journal issue. Updated twice yearly.
  • WorldAlmanac is an index to the full content of several current World Almanacs. It is updated annually. The almanac provides many quick facts on a variety of topics, such as political structure of countries, income tax rates, demographics, monetary units, important places and events, embassy addresses, holidays, and units of measurement.
  • WorldCat is an electronic catalog of more than 40 million items owned by local libraries and libraries around the world. Each item is described, and a list of libraries owning the item is provided. Information on materials such as books, sound recordings, videotapes, computer software, musical scores, and magazines may be found in WorldCat.

Typical Uses

If you are looking for ...
Select database(s) ...
Academic journals ArticleFirst, ECO
Articles on education ArticleFirst, ECO, ERIC
Articles on medicine, nursing, and health ArticleFirst, ECO, MEDLINE
Book and periodical titles WorldCat
Business publications ArticleFirst, ECO
Conference proceedings ECO, PapersFirst, Proceedings, WorldCat
Consumer affairs and people ArticleFirst, ECO
Engineering and technology ArticleFirst, ECO, PapersFirst, Proceedings, WorldCat
Government publications GPO
Newspaper articles and current events ArticleFirst
Periodical titles UnionLists, WorldCat

Basic, Advanced, and Expert Searching

If you know the name of the database you would like to search, enter your search terms into the "Search for" box and select the database you are interested in from the pull-down menu. You may begin your search by selecting the "Search" button.

If you do not know which database to search and would like to find the name of the database or databases best suited to your particular search, you can select "Suggest Best" on the left side of the screen. Select the general area you think your topic will fall under from the pull-down menu. FirstSearch will supply an estimated number of results and suggest databases to search based on your specific search term(s) and the topic area you select. You may now search across up to three databases. When you do this, your search results are merged into a single list.

All of the FirstSearch databases can be searched using either the Basic, Advanced, or Expert Search method. The Basic Search is usually used to locate words or concepts in a single index, or "field," such as author name, key word, or title. For more complex searches, you can use the Advanced Search, which allows you to search more than one field at a time. In an Advanced Search, for example, you can search for author and subject together. The Expert Search method is designed for experienced searchers who prefer to enter specific search labels and search terms, combined with special search characters and Boolean operators such as "and," "or," or "not."

If you are unable to find articles using the Basic Search, or if you have a very specific article, subject, or date in mind, select the Advanced Search option. This option allows you to focus your search on specific parts of journal articles, such as title, author, subject, or journal name. Each database has different fields that can be searched. To view this list, select the arrow button to the right of the search box. Index terms and section names used in the database can be browsed by selecting the Index button (described below).

Special Features

Listing libraries with item

Records in most databases contain a link to Libraries Worldwide. When you select this button, FirstSearch displays a list of the libraries that own the item you have found. Illinois libraries are listed first. FirstSearch displays a copy of the record below the list of libraries. See the Full text alternatives section below for options available to you when the FirstSearch database does not contain the full text of your article.

Library owns item

If the book, article, or item you have found in your search is owned by Skokie Public Library, an Library Owns Icon icon will appear at the end of the citation.

Limiting your search

Most databases will allow you to limit your search by year and by language. Some of these databases will let you limit your search by type of material (such as books, periodicals, recordings, and computer files), by availability (full text online or not), and by subject heading. You can limit your search by selecting the Limit button Narrow image before or after your search; you can also limit your search from the Advanced Search screen.

Expanding your search

Related Subjects Related subjects image and Related Authors Related authors image options gather subject headings and authors from the first fifty articles in your search. This allows you to find other articles related to your current search by letting you select specific subjects or authors you are interested in.

Tagging or marking records

To select a group of citations from your list of results, mark the citations on your results list by clicking in the box to the left of the citation. To view your selected records all at once, select the Marked Records button on the center of the screen. This will bring up all of your citations on a single screen.

Browsing the search index

You can use the Index feature to look up a word or phrase in an index to check its usefulness before searching. This feature lets you:

  • verify that a word or phrase exists in an index
  • check the spelling or spelling variations of a word
  • see how many records in the database contain your word
  • check the wording of an exact phrase

Select the Index button Scan index image from the right side of the search entry box on the Advanced Search screen.

Relevance ranking and sorting records

The results of your search will be listed automatically in the order that the records were added to the OCLC database unless you choose otherwise. From the initial Advanced Search screen or Expert Search screen, you can choose to "rank" your results by number of libraries that own the item, by date of publication, or by  relevance, which is based on the anticipated relevance of the results to your search topic. Relevance ranking will often help you more quickly locate the most appropriate information on your search topic.

If you would like to sort your results by author, title, or date, you may do so after you have performed your search. Select the Sort button Sort image from the top of the screen and select the appropriate sorting criteria from the pull-down menus.

Tips for Effective Searching

  • FirstSearch has an instructive and well-organized help section that can be accessed by selecting the Help icon Help image at the center of the screen.
  • A plus sign (+) can be added to the end of a word to search for plural and singular forms of a word. (including plurals). For example, the search for giraffe+ would retrieve giraffe and giraffes.
  • An asterisk (*) can be added to the end of a word to search for multiple forms of a word (including plurals). For example, searching using the word environment+ will retrieve articles containing words such as environmental, environmentalism, environmentalist, as well as environment and environments.
  • If you find your Basic Search retrieves resources that are not what you expected, try selecting the Advanced Search option at the top of the screen. This feature will permit you to specify which sections of the database you wish to search or a specific date range. Advanced Search also lets you link words or phrases with "and," "or," or "not". For more information on Advanced Searching, see the Basic, advanced, and expert searching section of this guide.
  • Phrases can be searched by putting the phrase in quotation marks, for example, use "gun control" or "white house" to search for articles about the issue of gun control or articles about the White House, respectively.

Full Text Alternatives

If the article you have found is not available in full text through one of OCLC's FirstSearch databases, first check with the staff person at Skokie Public Library's Information Services Desk to see if the magazine you are interested in is either:

  • available in print or microfilm at the Library, or
  • available in full text through another online database.

If the article is not available at Skokie Public Library, you may request a copy of the article from another library (as an "interlibrary loan") through one of the librarians at the Information Services Desk. To place an interlibrary loan request, you must have a Skokie Public Library card.

Print and Email Options

Articles and citations may be printed or sent to your email account from the FirstSearch databases. To reformat your article for printing, select the Print button Print image. Use the Email button Email image to send the document to an email address.

Please note that if the full text of an article is not available on the computer, you will not receive the full text via email.