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Sofia - User Guide

Sofia is a shared bilingual discovery tool for all academic libraries in Québec.

To learn more about the tool, see the Sofia overview?

Basic search

By default, the library website is set to basic search, where a single query box appears.

With this type of generic search, you may find items with keywords (subject, author, title, date of publication, editor, ISBN), using a single word or phrase with several words.

The default operator is AND.

Basic search examples:

  • gilbert laporte (gilbert AND laporte)
  • nanotechnologie
  • data sciences (data AND sciences)
  • teaching and learning in a community of thinking (teaching AND learning AND community AND thinking)

To narrow search results or to initiate a more complex search, choose the advanced search functionality, or use search filters with indexes. To find a specific publication, enter the title and author in the advanced search box.

Advanced search

This functionality is a more complete form to specify various criteria, which appears by clicking on “Advanced Search”, under the magnifying glass icon.

Advanced search includes different types of  boxes, where users specify their criteria, or “index”. This includes different types of information to describe an item (title, author, editor, year of publication, language, ISBN, etc.).

You may add search boxes with the “+ Add Row” button.

Advanced search includes other options:

  • Search a specific database or group of databases;
  • Narrow results to open access or scientific articles;
  • Request a specific format;
  • Specify a range of publication dates;
  • Select a branch or library .

Entry guidelines

To avoid incomplete search results, follow these guidelines for keywords:

Case The case does not affect search results. Keywords can be entered in upper case, lower case, or a combination of both. However, Boolean operators (see below) must be entered in upper case.
Stop Words

Avoid French or English stop words (le, la, les, du, de, des, a, an, but, the, etc.) because the Sofia discovery tool does not take them into account . Use quotation marks " " for stop words that must be taken into account within the search.

Example: The = “the”.

Punctuation and Diacritical Signs Avoid punctuation or diacritical signs.
Example: é=e, à=a, ç=c, ù=u, etc.
Apostrophe (‘) Avoid apostrophes (‘) and the letter preceding them, or omit the apostrophe and space between the words preceding and following the apostrophe. To include all variations, link both options with a Boolean OR.
Example: for l’Étranger, enter etranger OR letranger

Use hyphens (-) or replace hyphens with a space.

Example: sans-abri, sans abri


Boolean operators (ET/AND/+, OU/OR, SAUF/NOT/-) are inserted between keywords in a search box or between search boxes to connect or exclude certain words or phrases.

For Sofia to recognize them, Boolean operators must be entered in UPPERCASE, in French or English.

Keywords and their Boolean operators are processed left to right.




Narrows search results which allows to obtain items that include both words/ phrases connected through the operator.
Example: photography AND war

* If no other operator is entered in the search box, the Boolean operator AND is inserted by default between the words.



Broadens search results which allows to obtain items that include either word/phrase connected through the operator.
Example: cellular OR smartphone




Reduces search results by excluding items that include the word/phrase after the operator.
Example: “renewable energy” EXCEPT hydroelectricity

For more information on boolean operators, click here.

Search tips

Quotation Marks

  • Use English quotation marks " " to find an exact phrase or the closest words.
    • "organizational development"


  • An asterisk (*) isolates the root of a word to include all variations or words from the same family. This generally increases search results. At least three letters must precede the asterisk.
  • petrol* = petrol, pétrole, pétrolier, pétrolière, pétrolate, pétrolatum, petroleum, etc.


A pound sign (#) or a question mark (?) substitutes one or several variable letters in a word. Masks broaden search results. At least three characters must precede the mask.

  • The pound sign (#) substitutes only one letter.
  • The question mark substitutes several letters (9 maximum).
  • Thes#s = thesis, theses, thèses
  • Wom#n = woman, women
  • Encyclop?dia = encyclopedia, encyclopaedia

For more information on truncation or masks, click here.


  • Specify the order in which Boolean operators are applied to group keywords. Once the search is launched, Sofia interprets the words and operators in brackets first, and interprets the words and operators outside the brackets last.
    • (itinéran* OR sans-abri OR homeless*) AND (adolescent* OR teenage*)

Search indexes

Most search indexes are displayed in the advanced search window, but you can also enter their abbreviations in the in search boxes (basic or advanced search), and combine them with different operators.

The following list includes the most commonly used indexes and their abbreviations:

*Please note that a colon (:) after an abbreviation launches a keyword search in the index, but the equal sign (=) is used to find a specific phrase in the index In the latter case, the phrase must be located at the beginning of the field in question, without any words after, which significantly narrows results. When in doubt, use a colon with quotation marks. Ex.: kw:“early childhood”. As such:

ti=early childhood
means that we’re looking for documents precisely entitled “Early Childhood”. A document entitled « Early Childhood : A Survey of Best Practices” would therefore not be included in the search results.
ti:"early childhood"
searches for the phrase « early childhood » wherever it may be within the title field, even in combination with other words.

Author au:shakespeare
au=shakespeare william
ISBN bn:9782742798247
ISSN in:0018-165x
Keyword kw:enfance
kw=petite enfance
Language ln:fra
Editor     pb:boreal
pb=presses de  luniversite laval
Subject su:rome
su=rome antique
Title ti:antigone
ti=le pays renversé
Year of Publication yr:2017
Bar code bq:X38579059
Format x0:artchap
Click here  for the format abbreviations.

Do not use spaces between index abbreviations and punctuation marks ( : or =), or between punctuation marks and keywords. E.g.: au=shakespeare william

Click on author (au=), subject (su:) or collection (se:) to automatically launch a new index search from an item in the results list.