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Welcome! This tutorial will show you how to find resources using Summon.

This guide provides instructions on how to use the website to the right.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to:

  • Search for information using keywords
  • Use limiters to refine your results
  • Save your citations
We recommend using Firefox, Safari, or Chrome (enable cookies) for the best tutorial experience.
Use the arrows below to navigate.
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"Summon Basics: Finding Scholarly Sources" by K. Bertel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

What is Summon?

Summon is a search engine that can help you find almost everything the library owns or has access to. In Summon, you can search for books, articles, videos, and more.
It’s like the library’s version of Google.
On the library's homepage, the Summon search box looks like this:
Summon search on library homepage

Before You Begin

Before you begin searching, it's important to decide which words or concepts are essential to your topic and which are non-essential. 
When searching, we don’t want to ask questions or type sentences into Summon. This strategy will give us a long list of irrelevant results. Instead, we only want to use the keywords that are essential to describing our topic.
What are keywords?
Depending on your topic and assignment, it's likely that you will be able to sum up your topic using 3-5 keywords. Search as though you are talking to a caveman.
Caveman Lego figurine resting against a Lego wheel

Identifying Keywords

When searching in Summon and library databases, you should identify keywords that represent the main concepts of your topic. Keywords are essential to understanding your topic.
Let's say you've been assigned a research paper. The assignment requires that you use scholarly journal articles relevant to your topic. 
Research Question:
What is the impact of school lunch on overall student performance?

Pick the best keywords to use for your search:

Building Your Search

There are three basic commands to use when constructing your search.
Logic operators:
AND, OR, and NOT. The operators must be written in ALL CAPS. AND is the most common operator and is used to join concepts together to narrow your search. Learn more here.
Quotes for phrases:
Quotes around phrases such as "school lunch" will find results with that phrase rather than each word.
The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word. A search for Anthro*, it will match Anthropology, Anthropologies, and Anthropologist. A search for Ch*ter would match Charter, Character, and Chapter
Think of these commands like condiments on a sandwich, they enhance our search and help to hold everything together.
Illustration of a sandwich with meat, cheese, and condiments

Basic Summon Search

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Let's try using Summon to look for resources that discuss recent research on the impact of school lunches on student performance. 
Your Turn:
  • Type or paste the following words into the Summon search box: school lunch AND student AND performance
  • Hit enter on your keyboard or click the magnifying glass Magnifying glass icon for Summon search button

Basic Summon Search

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How many results did you get?

Scroll through the list of results.

What format is most popular in the first few results?

Basic Summon Search

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This is a rather large list of search results. Using limiters makes it easy to quickly narrow and refine your search to display more relevant results. 
To the left of our results pane is the limiter pane. Look for the Refine Your Search heading near the top of the page.
Refine Your Search pane header in Summon results list
Let's try limiting our results to just books and ebooks.
Under Content Type, select Book / eBook.
If you accidentally select the wrong limiter, simply click on the link again.

How many results did the limiters remove from your original search?

Basic Summon Search

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Now, let's try limiting our results to just scholarly journal articles.
Select Clear Filters at the top of the page. 
Clear Filters option in Summon results list 
Under Refine Your Search, select Scholarly & Peer-Review and under Content type, select Journal Article.
What is a scholarly / peer-reviewed article?
Selected Summon limiters for Scholarly & Peer-Review journal articles

Basic Summon Search

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We're still dealing with a relatively large number of results. Let's limit to articles written in the past five years.

Locate the Publication Date limiter section. You may need to scroll down the page a bit.

Publication Date limiter in Summon search results with quick links below the slider to limit to last 12 months, 3 years, or 5 years.

Use the slider, calendar icon, or type the appropriate year(s) to limit your results to articles published in the last five years.

How many articles appear in your results now?

Basic Summon Search

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Summon also lets you limit your results by academic discipline. This can be helpful if you have many irrelevant results or want to focus on a particular aspect of your topic.
Look for the Discipline limiter section.  
Select Education from the list of options.
You may need to click More... to find and select a discipline that is relevant to your research needs. 

Accessing Full Text Online

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When you find an item you like, click on the preview link below the title to get a description of the item.
To access the full-text of an online article or ebook, click on the title or click the Full Text Online link to access the full-text version of the article or ebook.

If you are off-campus, login using your Buffalo State network username and password.

Accessing Full Text Online

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The websites for journals and ebooks will have different designs, so the location and text of links may vary. 
You may also see links for:
  • HTML Full Text
  • Full Text
  • Download PDF (Book)
  • View this Article (Book)

Saving Your Citations

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Maybe you have found some items that you'd like to save. 
Choose one of the results and click the save to folder icon Summon search results save to folder icon
This will add your item to a temporary folder. Items saved to this folder will be deleted after 24 hours of inactivity or if you close your browser.

Saving Your Citations

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To view your saved items, click the saved items folder icon at the top of the page.
Summon temporary folder icon found in the upper right section of the header 
From here, you can choose the citation format and export to a reference manager, print, or email. 

What citation styles are available to choose from?

This list of citations can be copy and pasted into your paper, saving you time and energy. BUT! It is important to double-check these citations for accuracy.
Visit the Citation Help page or the Purdue Owl site for more help with citations.

Quiz: Putting It All Together:

Return to the library's homepage by clicking the E. H. Butler Library logo in the upper left corner in the Summon results or go to library.buffalostate.edu

We're going to work with the following topic for this quiz:

Are privacy concerns a threat to social media use?

Quiz: Putting It All Together:

Do a search for the phrase "social media" (don't forget the quotes!).

How many results do you get?

What are some filters you can use to target more specific results?


Under Refine Your Search, apply the Scholarly & Peer-Review limiter and under Content Type, apply the Journal Article limiter. 

Quiz: Putting It All Together:

Let's try narrowing our results even more by modifying our search to include keywords from our topic. 

Which Boolean Operator would give you the fewest number of results?


Keep the same search refinements, but change your search by typing or pasting the following into the search box on the Summon results page:

"social media" AND privacy

Make sure to hit enter or click the search icon after you have updated your search.



Quiz: Putting It All Together:

Keeping our research topic in mind:

Are privacy concerns a threat to social media use?

Are these search results more relevant to our topic?

From the list of results, choose an article that fits the topic.

If we wanted to revise our search again...

(You may need to consult a thesaurus or perform a quick web search)




Please enter your name and email address to retrieve a copy of your completed quiz.

You can enter multiple email addresses separated by commas. If you are doing this for a class, you may need to enter your instructor's email address also.