Using the Library Search Interface

When you use the library’s search interface, PRIMO, you are not just searching what the PLU library owns physically, but you will also be searching for materials (academic articles or ebooks, for example) that the library has subscribed to. This does mean that some of your searches will return a lot of information, but PRIMO provides a number of tools to help you limit your searches to help you identify the kinds of resources that you will need.

Search filters in the PRIMO library search interace.

After running a search in PRIMO, you’ll be presented with a list of results. To the left of these results, you’ll find the search filter options to help you narrow or expand your search.

NOTE: If you are using a mobile device, you will need to click on the “funnel” icon that appears between the search bar and your search results to see these filtering options. The “funnel” icon is usually accompanied by a gear icon, and checkbox icon.

Although most of the terminology used in PRIMO is fairly straightforward, there are a few terms that need some clarification. Here’s a rundown of some of those terms:

  • Availability: Refers to how you can access the search results. If you want to find something in the library building, you would select “Held by library.” Otherwise, if you are looking for electronic versions of articles or e-books, you would select “Available Online.”
  • Material type: This refers to the format of the search results. If you are only interested in one format type, this filter will help you with this. Note that if you are interested in peer-reviewed articles, clicking on “Peer-reviewed Journals” in the “Availability” section will be a better alternative.
  • Location: This refers to where in the library building the search results are located. Most useful when looking for something “Held by library.”
  • Collection: If you are interested in results from a certain database, this filter will let you see results from the database you select.
  • Subject: If you are interested in a particular topic/subject within your search results, this filter will be useful for that.

TIP: PRIMO will always show you resources that you can access through PLU. If your research requires access to a larger collection of resources, you can select “Search beyond PLU” on the filters on the left side of the screen. Know that you will not have immediate access to these additional resources, but you may still be able to get them through Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

Saving, citing, and sharing is quite easy in PRIMO. To download academic articles, however, you’ll have to access them through the links under the “View Online” section. For more information, consult the “Downloading articles” section of this guide.

Four icons lined horizontally. From left to right, a double quote, two links of a chain, a green pin, and three dots.

The most common ways to save or share an article are listed here. These options can be found in the results section towards the top right side of each search result, or under the “Send To” section inside a record, which you can get to by clicking on the title of the results you want to save or share.

Quotation: By clicking on this icon, you can obtain a basic citation of the related result. These citations are not full citations, so always correct them before using them.

Chain links: By clicking on this icon, you’ll be able to obtain a permalink (direct link) to a particular resource. This will be the most direct way to access a result after saving it.

  • Note: Never save the URL at the top of the page when sharing a search result; use the permalink instead.

Pin: When clicking on this pin icon, you are creating a list of results that you can then share. You can access this list by clicking on the pin icon at the top of the page.

  • Note: If you are not signed in, any saved lists will disappear when you close your tab or leave the library website.

TIP: By signing into PRIMO (top right corner) with your ePass, you’ll have access to the following features:

  • Access to your library card to renew any checked out books
  • Save your favorite searches and get notifications about new search results
  • Save/delete your search history
  • Create lists of resources that you can categorize and save for later
Information about an article in a library database. On the top right side, there are two red arrows; one points up and another points down.

Many articles that you locate through PRIMO will have one or two sets of red arrows next to the usual sharing/saving icons:

  • Upwards branching arrow: Use to locate articles that have cited the article.
  • Downwards joining arrow: Use to locate articles that are cited within the article.

While this feature can be quite useful to identify similar articles, it is important to note that PRIMO will not display all articles that are cited within an article nor all the articles that have cited the article you are looking at. Similarly, you may not be able to access all of the articles that appear under this result list, but you can always request them through Interlibrary Loan.

Locating Materials in the Library

This section will help you locate information sources by their type. By default, PRIMO will list all information types, but it is possible to sort your results by type. Similarly, there are different ways for you to search for different types of sources. Follow the examples below for more information.

To quickly locate books and music scores in the library, use the library homepage. By clicking on the “Advanced Search” link located under the main search bar and then selecting either “Books” or “Sound recordings” under the “Material Type” section, you’ll be able to search through all the relevant resources held in the library.

Advanced search PRIMO interface. Search query is search for "educating for service." Under the "Material Type" filter, the category 'Books' is selected.

Once you have conducted a search, use the search filters on the left side to further narrow your search and locate sources appropriate for your research. After locating an item that seems useful, the catalog will provide you with a call number that you can use to locate it in the building.

Record of a book in a library database. Record shows the title, author, year of publication, and information about its location in the library building.

TIP: How to read a call number

LD         ← top line is to be read alphabetically ( example: LD comes before LF)
4461      ← second line is read numerically (example: 4461 comes before 4465)
.P322    ← third line is read alphabetically, then numerically (ex: .P322 comes before .R67)
1990     ← fourth line is the year the book was published, arranged chronologically

If you are looking for more sources similar to one you found, you can look at the subjects for that item. These subjects are located under the “Details” section of the record. Clicking on any of these will run a search and display items with this subject. Note that you can customize this search to add additional filters and keywords.

Details section of a search results in a library database. Subcategories visible include Title, Creator, Is Part of, and Subject

Additionally, once you locate a book on the shelf, you can also find similar items in that area. If you are not on campus, you are also able to do this while you are searching. Under the “Virtual Browse” section, you are able to see what other books are located next to the one you need.

Virtual Browse section of a library database. It shows a list of books and their titles as if they were located side by side in a book shelf.

The quickest way to locate academic articles for your research is to use the library search interface, PRIMO. Depending on your preference, you can start locating articles in one of two ways:

  • Run a search in the search box located in the library homepage. Once you have a list of results, look at the search filters on the left side of the screen and select either “Peer-reviewed Journals” under the Availability menu, or “Articles” under the Material Type menu. The only difference between these two options is that when you select “Articles,” you are given both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles.
  • Click on the Advanced Search link under the search box located in the library homepage. Once you have entered your keywords, select “Articles” under the Material Type menu. Once you have a list of results, you can also select “Peer-reviewed Journals,” as indicated above, to narrow your search results to peer-reviewed articles.

Alternatively, the A-Z Database List can also give you access to all the databases that the PLU library subscribes to. As a reminder, a database refers to research resources that contain different types of resources, usually academic articles. To best use the A-Z List, it will be important to know which databases are most used within your major/field of study. You can learn more about this by consulting with your professor or contacting one of the librarians. To help you, we have also sorted the databases by their subject (major/field) and type (news, primary sources, for example).

Once you have a better sense of which databases will be best for you, you can access and search their contents by clicking on their name. Know that each of these databases will look differently, but most of the research strategies used in this guide will still help you. If you have any issues navigating any of these databases, please contact one of the librarians. Otherwise, you can also consult the Using Library Databases (in development) section below for more information about how to navigate through some of these resources.

When you already know the title of the journal that you are looking for, you can use PRIMO to search for that journal. By clicking on the “Journal Search” link under the main search bar on the library homepage, you’ll be able to search through our collection of journals.

An input box with a yellow "Search button" to its right. Under the search bar, there are three links: Advanced Search, Journal Search, and Course Reserves.

This method, however, cannot be used to find journals about a topic. For example, you’ll be able to find journals that have the word “advertising” in the title, but you won’t find all journals that are related to “advertising.” If you do not know the specific title of a journal but know what topic you want to search, you can explore the “Journals by Category” section on the left-hand side of the Journal Search page. 

Once you have identified a journal in the list of results and clicked on the “Available Online” link, you’ll be able to see where you can access the journal and the coverage for each source. Clicking on any of these links will take you away from PRIMO and into another interface. Note that some journals can be accessed in more than one database; the only difference in these links is the range of coverage that each particular database provides.

Search Inside and View Online section of a search record in a library database. The Search Inside section includes an input box. The View Online section display availability of a journal in the Nurse & Allied Health Database.

TIP: It is possible to search the contents of a journal without leaving the PRIMO interface. Located above the “View Online” section, the “Search Inside” section, lets you enter keywords and search a particular journal. This will create a PRIMO search query, which you can further customize with additional keywords and search operators.

Using Library Databases

Short description about what library databases are and the information they contain. Provide some context about their cost, reliability, and features.