Ask A Librarian

Summon Helps Users to Discover Resources

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 7th, 2011

Where do you look for information when you start a new assignment? Do you look for books or journals first? Has anyone written about this before? Is there a dissertation? Did your professor mention something about a documentary?

Don’t panic. Just summon the information.

Summon, a new research tool available on the WVU Libraries’ website,, is a powerful search engine that scours a very large database covering all types of materials and every academic subject. It is sometimes called a “discovery” service because it allows library researchers to use a single search box to discover material of all sorts.

“Summon reveals what is available at the WVU Libraries and offers fast access to content such as e-journal articles and digitized information, usually with a single click,” said Penny Pugh, Head of Reference for the Downtown Campus Library.

For example, if you search “Marcellus shale,” you will find recent newspaper and journal articles, articles from trade publications, and a dissertation written this year. That’s just on the first page of results. The search netted 9,890 items.

Summon contains listings for journal articles, books, e-books, dissertations, videos, newspaper articles, government documents, archival materials, photographs, maps, conference papers, reports, and more. Summon at WVU currently contains more than 200 million items and continues to add new listings each week. This includes most, but not all, of what is available in our library system. Expand your search beyond WVU’s holdings to include nearly 600 million items.

Refining a search is easy. Check-boxes on the left side of the results page enable users to limit the parameters by type of material, by subject, by date, or by language. Results can be limited to just scholarly articles.

Keywords are the most important factor in getting good results. Searching for phrases by enclosing them in quotation marks can help make the results more relevant. Entering different terms will result in finding different results. Using more terms will find fewer results. Using fewer terms will find more results.

When done, you can save your items to a folder in Summon and then e-mail or export them at the end of your search session. Folder items are not saved after you exit, so it is important to export or e-mail before you leave the service.

“Summon can be very helpful when you are beginning research on a subject that is new to you or investigating a multidisciplinary topic,” Pugh said. “It is also good starting place when you are uncertain about which discipline-specific library databases to use.”

As with other online resources, Summon is available off-campus. To access full articles and other online content from off-campus locations, log in by clicking on the black banner at the top of your results screen.

Summon is a great resources because it searches everything. But, if you are searching for a single known item, you may want to use other library resources.  To check for a book title, use the Mountainlynx catalog. To locate a copy of an article, use the Find it @ WVU application, which allows you to enter the article citation and then retrieves a copy of the article for you. To determine if the Libraries subscribe to a particular e-journal, use the E-Journals search page.  Links to all of these tools are on the Libraries’ website,

If you need help or want to report problems with Summon, links are located in the upper right corner of the Summon page. Use the feedback form to report a problem by email.  For live help, use the Libraries’ Ask a Librarian chat service, available from any library web page or the main page at

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