Tag Archives: Research Tips

Tips and tricks for searching the library catalog

 Want to learn some new ways to search the library catalog and get better results? This blog post provides some tips and tricks to help you.


You can use wildcards characters to replace one or more characters when searching the library catalog. Please note that these characters are not valid as wildcards when they are the first character in your search term.

For a single character wildcard search, use the ? (question mark) symbol. For example, type authori?e to find both the American (authorize) and British (authorize) spellings.

For a multiple character wildcard search, use the * (asterisk) symbol. For example, type cell* for cellular, cells, etc.

Using the * (asterisk) symbol as the first character in your search term indicates that the search term is important. For example, baseball *Boston.

To locate a search term that is essential, type a + (plus sign) in front of the word. For example, +lung +cancer.

Tip: It is best to use a wildcard search term with other search terms so you do not get too many search results.


A dialatin-accentscritic is a symbol that is attached to a letter and is used to indicate an alternative pronunciation for the letter. Some examples of diacritics are accents (continuación), cedillas (François), and umlauts (Brontë).

If your search term has a diacritic, you can either include or not include the diacritic in your search term.

Tip: If you do not get the proper search results using a diacritic, type the search term without the diacritics.

Character sets

Our library catalog like many computer systems looks for characters in ASCII format. If you copy and paste a search term from a document or Web page, the search term may contain non-ASCII characters and then the term may not appear in your search results.

Example: ASCII and Non-ASCII apostrophe characters

Non-ASCII : George Washington’s

ASCII: George Washington’s

For characters such as diacritics, commas, apostrophes, and quotes, try deleting these types of characters and retype them directly in the search box.

Using Archival Collections in Your Research

UASC Stacks
UMass Boston’s archival storage space. The University holds more than 200 archival collections across a variety of research areas.

Developing a successful research strategy involves identifying and locating relevant resources including both secondary and primary source materials.  It may turn out that UMass Boston’s Archives hold archival collections that are of direct use to you in your research.  UMass Boston’s collections encompass a variety of subject disciplines.  We preserve archival materials related to the University’s history as well as records and documents that reflect the university’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social action, alternative movements, community organizations and local history related to our neighboring communities including the Boston Harbor Islands.   A couple of examples:

A single MCOF Record. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, UMass Boston.

UMass Boston holds than 28,000 mortuary records from the Mass. Catholic Association of Foresters,  a fraternal organization begun in Boston in 1879 by Irish immigrants. These records include extensive data about the health, social networks, occupations and immigration patterns of thousands of people over many decades.  We also hold the records of the international organization “Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research”, the papers of Judge David Mazzone, who presided over the cleanup of Boston Harbor, the chambers papers of W. Arthur Garrity, who presided over the desegregation of Boston Public Schools, records of the League of American Wheelmen and many, many more organizations and individuals.

1968 photo of Columbia Point
Columbia Point before the construction of the UMass Boston campus; photo taken in 1968. The building in the center is the Calf Pasture Pumping Station. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, UMass Boston.
Bicycling postcard, “You Can Count On US, Solider ! We’ll Keep ‘Em Rolling!”, circa 1920-1950. Source: Archives and Special Collections, UMass Boston.

Of course, no single archival institution can hold everything. Around the world, different institutions have committed to taking responsibility for storing and preserving different chunks of the historic record, usually based on that institution’s own mission and goals. There are many other archival institutions in the area and around the world, and Healey Library’s Archives staff can help you to find out what they hold and how to access them. There are also several fine, online directories of archival holdings – “ArchiveGrid” from OCLC is a good one.  Another is WorldCat, where you may limit search results to “Archival Material” using the faceting options in the left-hand column.

BPD Duty Card, 1919
Duty roster card for a patrolman involved in the 1919 Police Strike in Boston. Source: Boston Police Department Archives; digital copies of the full set held at University Archives and Special Collections, UMass Boston.

So if your research can make use of archival materials in any format, please do contact us. The staff here in the University Archives and Special Collections is enthusiastically committed to assisting you in reaching your academic and research goals.  The best way to take advantage of the Archives department’s services is simply to email library.archives@umb.edu and tell us what you need or are hoping to accomplish. And you are welcome to stop by any weekday between 10 am and 4 pm to say hello and see our Reading Room and speak to an archivist.  The University Archives and Special Collections are located on the 5th Floor of the Healey Library.

Related Resources:

Descriptions of UMass Boston’s Archival Collections

UMass Boston’s Repository for Digital Collections

Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research (SAA handout)


Searching the library catalog

The Healey Library offers thousands of print books, e-books, DVDs, and streaming media on a wide variety of subjects. Searching the library catalog can help you locate these items.

To access the library catalog, begin at the Library Home page at: http://www.umb.edu/library.  Then click the Catalog link on the left side of the library web page.


Continue reading Searching the library catalog

Library Instruction: Research tip#1

Research papers can be a challenge. First a student needs to dissect the assignment and find out what is being asked of them. Then they have to think up a topic and see what information is out there.

After choosing a topic, one of the trickiest parts of a research paper assignment is trying to describe what information is needed – what are the subjects involved? Continue reading Library Instruction: Research tip#1