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Research Help: Summon: Search (almost) Everything

Get help planning your research, using research tools, finding resources, citing and evaluating sources, and more.

About Summon

Summon is a powerful tool that searches the library's catalog of print and online books, videos, most of our article databases, scholarly content freely available on the web, the catalogs of our Connect NY partners. The strength of Summon is that it allows users to do a quick keyword search across many of our resources at the same time, providing a comprehensive view of all types of information in many different formats (books, journal articles, etc) available on a topic.

Summon is a good place to start researching; however, navigating results pages can be somewhat complex. 

Basic Search
With the Summon tab selected, start typing in your keywords. Use keywords that best describe your topic. Use search limiters such as putting "quotes around phrases" to search for exact strings of words or phrases. Try synonyms or official terms for your keywords as well. Then let Summon help you to narrow the results by using the limiters in the left side column.

  • When the results screen comes, users will see three columns. The center column shows the resources available for that search. The results are ordered by relevance. They can also be sorted by date, author or title by clicking on the drop down menu in the upper left corner of the results page. Note the large number of results in the upper left corner of the column. It is best to then filter the results (see below).


  • The results can be filtered using the column on the left ("Refine Your Search"). Users can filter by document type, institution, content type, date, subject terms, and discipline, among other categories. 


  • The right column offers a range of information, from definitions of the term to related topics, and related documents.

Summon searches so much information that you will often get way too many results. Using the advanced search and the limiting features of Summon, called facets, help you be more specific and focus your results.


Using the Advanced Search  lets you be more specific with your search.  For example, you can tell Summon to look for the author "Sally Smith", by using quotes around the phrase you will just search for records with the exact phrase of "Sally Smith," not for all records that contain the words Sally and Smith.  Also, by changing the drop-down menu to author instead of all fields you can focus your search on materials by "Sally Smith" rather than about "Sally Smith". 



Should I use Summon,  the Classic catalog or the Journal finder?

It depends on what you are looking for. 

Summon is a search engine that searches everything in the catalog plus articles (scholarly and non-scholarly) from the library databases and some digital collections.  Summon is great for exploring topics.  It excels at keyword searches and a provides a more comprehensive view of all the types of information that are accessible to you. 

The Classic catalog is the inventory of the books, media, print journal titles and other physical items that are held in the Canisius library.  The catalog provides you with more control and is best used for known title searching.  You can search for title, author, subject and limit to locations, such as the Curriculum Center. 

The Journal finder is the inventory of the journals (print and online) that Canisius subscribes to.  The journal records contain the links to the databases that give us access to the journal and the dates available.  If you are looking to search  for a specific journal title then you would want to use the Journal finder.  

What is Being Searched? Contents of Summon
Summon searches the books, ebooks, scholarly articles, newspaper articles, trade journal articles, magazine articles, video content, conference proceedings, governmental reports, and digital collections that Canisius owns or subscribes to.

Relevance Ranking: How It Works
Summon uses relevance ranking when organizing a result list. This algorithm is similar to that uses by search engines as it attempts to identify the most useful results based on your search and put them at the top of your result list. The relevancy rank considers many points to determine result order including: matches to your keywords, date of item, term frequency, content type, if it is scholarly/peer-reviewed, and location of keywords in prominent places such as the title or subject heading of an item.

For example: content types of matching results are analyzed (journals, books, newspaper articles, dates of publication, etc.), rewarding records that are more recent, or published in a scholarly or peer-reviewed journal.

Can't Find a Book or Article in Summon: What Do I Do?
Try the following:

The Full-Text Link Didn't Work: What Do I Do?

There are many possible reasons that a full text link does not work, including:

  • Error in the citation.
  • There is no full-text version of the item available online.
  • Canisius does not have a subscription to the online version of the journal.
  • Problem with the url

If this happens, try searching for the journal through the Journals by Title search. If we have access to the journal the title will appear in the search results.  Follow the link to access the e-journal directly; from there you can manually enter the citation information.

If Canisius does not have a subscription to the journal, you may request a copy of the article through Interlibrary Loan.

Report Problems
Should you encounter a problem with Summon, such as a link to a source not working or a database asking for a login, please report this to us <> so that we can troubleshoot the problem. Thank you for you help with this.


adapted from Syracuse University Libraries FAQ