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Sofia - User Guide

Search tool

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).
  • The default operator is AND (when 2 keywords are separated by a space).

Basic search examples (what the system performs as a search) :

  • 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.

For example, to find a specific publication, enter the title and author in the advanced search box.

Advanced search

The advanced search is accessed by clicking on the Advanced Search link located under the search bar.

The advanced search functionality allows you to :

  • specify more search criteria, for more precise results;
  • combine different search fields (title, author, journal title, etc.);
  • add search boxes using the + Add Row button;
  • search specific databases or a group of databases.

The following search options are also available :

  • narrow results to open access or scientific articles;
  • request a specific format;
  • specify a range of publication dates.

These options can also be applied to refine search results .

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators (AND/ET/+, OR/OU, NOT/SAUF/-) can be used to reflect your needs and search criteria as closely as possible.

  • They can be used in both basic and advanced searches.
  • They are inserted between keywords within a search box or between search boxes to connect or exclude certain terms or expressions.
  • They must be entered in CAPITAL letters, in English or French.
  • Search terms and their Boolean operators are processed from left to right.




Narrow the search results by displaying documents containing both terms/phrases connected by the operator

  • photography AND war
  • photography ET war
  • photography + war

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



Broaden search results by displaying items that include either word/phrase connected through the operator.

  • cellular OR smartphone
  • cellular OU smartphone




Reduce search results by excluding items that include the word/phrase after the operator.

  • “renewable energy” NOT hydroelectricity
  • “renewable energy” SAUF hydroelectricity
  • “renewable energy” hydroelectricity

For more information on Boolean operators, click here.

Search tips

Quotation marks

  • Use English quotation marks " " to find an exact phrase or adjacent terms.
    • Ex. : "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.
    • EX. : environment* = environment / environments / environmental / environmentally / environmentalism / environmentalist


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

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

For more information on truncation or wildcards, click here.


  • Specifies the order in which Boolean operators are applied and allows you to group keywords together. Once the search is launched, the terms and operators contained within the parentheses will be processed by the search tool first, while the terms and operators located outside the parentheses will be interpreted last.
    • Ex. : (computer* OR electronic*) AND (waste OR disposal) AND environment*

Input 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 above) 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 Web - “the Web”
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

Hyphens (-) may be used or replaced by a space.

  • Example: sans-abri, sans abri

Search indexes

Each search field is linked to an index, most of which are visible in the advanced search drop-down menu.

You can also enter their abbreviations in the search fields (basic or advanced search), and combine them with different operators.

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

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=universite de montreal
Subject su:rome
su=rome antique
Title ti:marketing
ti=operations management
Year of Publication yr:2017
Bar code bq:X38579059
Format x0:artchap
Click here  for the format abbreviations.

A colon (:) after an abbreviation :  launches a keyword search in the index.

An equal sign (=) after an abbreviation : used to find a specific phrase* in the index.

*The phrase must be located at the beginning of the field in question, and the field must not contain any other words afterwards, which may limit the results. When in doubt, it is better to use a colon with quotation marks, ex.: kw:"operations management".

Examples :

  • 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.

Do not use spaces between index abbreviations and punctuation marks ( : or =), or between punctuation marks and keywords.

  • Ex. .: 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.

  • Click on au= to search for the author
    • au=Aubé, Caroline (Displays all of the author’s publications)
  • Click on su: to search a topic
    • su:Marketing on the Internet (Displays all publications related to the subject matter)
  • Click on se: to search a collection
    • se:Advances in Spatial Science, The Regional Sciences Series (Displays all of the collection’s publications)

Research Assistance

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Service d'aide à la recherche
Bibliothèque HEC Montréal
Édifice Côte-Sainte-Catherine
514 340-3851
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