Advanced search

What is Summon Search?


graphic illustration of Summon

The power behind the large search box on the library website is Summon, a kind of search engine for research materials. Use Summon to discover:

  • (e-)books and (e-)journals
  • full-text articles
  • conference proceedings
  • theses and dissertations
  • video and audio recordings
  • images
  • manuscripts
  • maps, and more.

We regularly add our Digital Collections and library catalog item records to Summon.

The "Add results beyond your library's collection" checkbox expands your search even further. The massive Summon Index contains billions of item records.

Looking for demonstrations of Summon's features in action? Check out this YouTube playlist, or visit the Screencasts and Videos page.

Quick Tips

  • Instead of pasting a whole article citation into the search box, try doing an advanced search. Here's an example of an advanced search for a specific article in a particular journal:
screenshot of an advanced search for "Women and the 'primitive'" in the title field and "Journal of feminist studies in religion" in the publication title field
  • If you're looking for a book chapter and can't find it, try looking up the book title. There may be a print copy waiting for you in the library!

Summon and the Library Catalog

There may still be times in your work when searching the library catalog* directly will be the better option for starting (or continuing) your research. We are always working to improve all search and discovery tools.

*What is a library catalog?

The advantages of using Summon…

Searching is fast, easy, and uses a familiar interface—it's almost like Google

Search results include citations of many kinds of sources: books, journal articles, newspaper articles, conference proceedings, dissertations, photos, multimedia, and much more

Search results can be quickly narrowed by using the facets: content type, library location, subject terms, publication date, language, and more

Search results can be limited to scholarly or peer-reviewed sources with one click

Searches can include materials that are not part of Princeton Theological Seminary Library’s collections, but which can easily be requested through our interlibrary loan service

Provides a search interface optimized for mobile devices

Citations in your search results can be viewed in commonly used citation formats, exported in a variety of formats, emailed, and printed

…and a few caveats

Summon includes many, many resources, but not everything to which Princeton Theological Seminary Library subscribes.** Use the Databases (A-Z) list to locate and search within a specific database.

Also, Princeton University has its own complex library search engine – available at Search there or directly in the Princeton University library catalog ( for materials in Firestone Library.

Too many results? Vague or short searches will return too many results; searches using well-refined search terms or phrases in quotes will return fewer, more refined results. To conduct a more specific search – such as for a particular book or article – use the Advanced Search options.

**Why aren’t all available resources included in Summon? Some publishers/vendors choose not to allow ProQuest (the maker of Summon) to index their content whether for technological or other reasons.

Enhancements and Known Issues


  • Limit your Summon search results to print books using the "Physical Books in Library Catalog" option under Refine Your Search on the results page
  • Sort results by Title, Author, Date or Relevance
  • Search for authors or co-authors by ORCIDs. Search by field using “ORCID:0000-0000-XXXX-XXXX”
  • Citation Trails: Explore a topic and collect material by following a chain of articles that cite each other. Search results now (often) include cites/cited by articles.
  • "New Search" and "x" buttons clear the search box
  • Search buttons and "Clear form" links now at both top and bottom of the Advanced Search screen
  • Improved handling of complete citation searches
  • Find links to Summon training videos, Library feedback and suggestions form, and the Library's most recent tweets in the right sidebar (desktop view)
  • "Open Access" refinement
  • More database recommendations
  • Related Articles: Some search results now include recommendations from bX Recommender
  • Language drop down menu for selecting user interface language now displays options in the native language.
  • Persistent URLs: Copy or bookmark links from Summon
  • Results numbered to help you keep track of where you are in the results set.
  • Accessibility: Labels have been added to the search landing page and main page search boxes, and the date picker has been upgraded.
  • More of our online journal subscriptions are now connected to Summon making more full text more easily discoverable.

Known Issues

  • Some databases may be missing from the Database facet. Please visit for a full A-Z list of databases.
  • Broken links/dead ends: Occasionally, the path between an item in the search results list and the citation or full text doesn’t work properly. If this happens, please let us know – either by using the "Report a problem" link within Summon or by emailing libweb [at] ptsem [dot] edu. Tell us what you were looking for and what happened; please be as detailed and specific as possible. Thank you!
  • The real time availability display in search results seems to be lost from time to time. Most books in the library catalog do circulate. Click the "Check Availability" link in the search result to view the full details.
  • We are not able to add any more options to the Refine Your Search feature at this time.
  • The pages of the library website ( are not able to be indexed (unfortunately). Select pages are being included as "Best Bets," a feature similar to the Database Recommendations you may have seen in Summon.


Want to embed a Summon Search widget or search box on your own website? Visit and click on Search Widget or Search Box Builder to get started.


Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License from Virginia Tech Libraries.