Library Services


Explore help

Explore, our library catalogue, is a one-stop service solution for the discovery and delivery of our print and e-resources. This guide shows how to search Explore and also manage your library account.

Using the Explore service

    What is Explore?

    Explore is a one-stop service solution for the discovery and delivery of printed and electronic resources. You can search for material within a single resource or across a range of resources simultaneously. Your choice of resources includes:

    • All resources: Search everything in Explore
    • Library catalogue: Printed and electronic book and journal titles from the UCL library catalogue
    • Journal titles: Journal titles to which UCL Library provides access, print and electronic
    • Journal articles: A remotely-held catalogue of millions of electronic journal articles and other full-text e-resources (see further details below)
    • Databases: Electronic databases of bibliographic and related materials
    • Digital collections: UCL Library Services’ digital collections
    • UCL Discovery: Open access documents from UCL’s publications repository
    • UCL Exam papers: Electronic copies of UCL exam papers
    • Archives catalogue: UCL’s archives catalogue
    • UCL Reading Lists: Links to lists of resources by course name or code
    • Digital Education Resource Archive (DERA): Documents published electronically in the areas of education, training and skills
    • UCL Research Data: content from the UCL Research Data Repository

    A search for journal articles and other full-text resources in Explore will find results from a wide range of sources. In some cases, though, users may prefer to search UCL's subscription databases individually, particularly where some of the content of a database is not covered in Explore. List of databases whose content is not covered by Explore.

    Performing basic searches

    You can search very easily using Explore. Just type one or more words you are looking for and hit Enter or click the [magnifying glass] button.

    NOTE: Explore assumes that you are searching for all the words you type unless OR or NOT are specified between the words and phrases.

    Once you are familiar with the basic Explore search, you might want to try doing more with the search panel or use the Advanced search option. Both of these options offer numerous features for making your searches more precise and enable you to get results that are more useful. For library catalogue material, you can also Browse through certain indexes.

    You can do more than just a simple keyword search with the search box. Try the following options to get the best results for your search:

    • Searching for a phrase
    • Searching for any specified words or phrases
    • Searching using a DOI
    • Searching using an ISSN
    • Searching using an ISBN
    • Excluding words or phrases
    • Searching using wildcard characters
    • Grouping terms within a query
    • Selecting a search resource
    • Browsing the library catalogue

    Searching for a phrase

    To search for a phrase, type double quotation marks around the phrase. You can combine both words and phrases in your search.

    NOTE: If you do not enclose the phrase with quotation marks, the system will find items that contain the individual words in the phrase, regardless of whether these words are located next to each other in the order specified.

    For example, to search for global warming as one term, type the following in the search box:

    “global warming”

    Searching for any specified words or phrases

    You can search for items that contain at least one of the words or phrases you type in the search box. To do so, type OR between the words or phrases.
    NOTE: If you search for words or phrases without specifying OR or NOT, Explore assumes that you are searching for all the specified words or phrases.
    For example, to search for items with the word Irish or the word Celtic, type the following in the search box:

    irish OR celtic

    NOTE: To use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) within search phrases, you must enter them in uppercase letters. Otherwise, Explore will consider them as part of the query.

    Searching using a DOI

    To search for a specific article using its DOI, type the full DOI into the search bar and click Search. If your DOI search doesn't bring back any results, try searching for the title or ISSN of the journal as we may hold it in print format.

    Searching using an ISSN

    Searching on a journal's ISSN will retrieve results for both the overall title and any articles available electronically. To search using an ISSN, enter the full number (including hyphen) in the search bar and click Search.

    Searching using an ISBN

    Searching by a book's ISBN is a good way to find a specific edition or version. To search using an ISBN, enter the 10- or 13-digit number into the search bar and click Search.

    Excluding words or phrases

    You can exclude items that contain specific words or phrases. To do so, type NOT and then type the word or phrase to exclude.

    NOTE: If you search for words or phrases without specifying OR or NOT, Explore assumes that you are searching for all the specified words or phrases.

    For example, to search for items with the word Celtic and exclude any of these items with the word Irish, type the following in the search box:

    celtic NOT irish

    Searching using wildcard characters

    You can include wildcard characters in your searches as follows:

    ? Enter a question mark to perform a single character wildcard search. For example, to search for records that contain the strings woman, women and so forth type:


    * Enter an asterisk to perform a multiple character wildcard search. For example, to search for records that contain strings, such as culture, cultural and culturally type:


    Grouping terms within a query

    You can use parentheses to group terms within a query. For example, to search for Shakespeare and either tragedy or sonnet, type the following in the search box:
    shakespeare (tragedy OR sonnet)

    Selecting a search resource

    The search resource defines where the system should perform the search. The default search resource is All resources (see the What is Explore? section above) but you can change the scope of your search by selecting a different resource from the drop-down list.

    Browsing the library catalogue

    To browse certain indexes of the UCL library catalogue, click on ‘…’ (Show more) in the top menu, then select ‘Browse’. You can browse the following indexes:

    • Subject - e.g. stars; russia history
    • Author - lastname, firstname e.g. dostoyevsky, fyodor ; british broadcasting corporation
    • Title - e.g. tale of two cities (omit initial articles: a, the, le, etc.)Note that subsequent articles should be included in a browse search.  (i.e 'Cat in the hat', not 'Cat in hat')
    • Shelfmark - e.g. anthropology a 2 (UCL shelf location)

    In the browse results list, click on the entry you wish to see and this will be displayed in the brief results list as below, unless there is only one entry, in which case a detailed display will be shown.

    Using the brief results

    The brief results display all the items that match your search query. For each item, the following information displays:

    • Resource Type: The format of the item, such as book, article, journal and so forth
    • Title: Clicking the title displays information about the item
    • Author, creator, and date: The author, creator and publication date of the item
    • Actions icons: Click to save or email the citation, or to add or remove the record from your favourites.
    • Availability link: Clicking here provides links to full text (if available) or shows the location of the item in the library.
    Explore brief results screenshot

    Refining your results

    To the left of the brief results list are various options for refining the results of your search.
    You can refine your search by including or excluding the following 'facets' which group results together under common characteristics.

    • Show only - use this to limit to either physical items or electronic resources
    • Type - if, for example, you were looking only for books, you could use this facet
    • Library - use this to limit to items held in a particular UCL library
    • New Records - use this limit to restrict results to items added to in the last seven, 30 and 90 days.
    • Topic - based on descriptors in the results themselves
    • Date
    • Author
    • Language
    • Collection

    NOTE: Facets only display when it is possible for you to refine your search by using them.

    For some facets the first few options are shown immediately, but to see all options you can use the ‘Show more' button. 

    To include multiple values, click to the left of them, and to exclude a certain value, click to the right of it, as shown here:

    Explore facets screenshot

    Saving records / Favourites

    The Favourites area allows you to save and organize items that you find during your Explore session. To access the Favourites, click the Saved items link in the login menu at the top of the page.
    This section includes:

    Saving items to Favourites

    When you select the pin icon for an item in the search results, the system highlights the icon and adds the item to the Saved records area, unlabelled.

    Explore favourites screenshot

    NOTE: You must sign in to save items to Favourites for future sessions.

    Removing items from Favourites

    To remove an item from Favourites, select the pin icon next to the item in the Favourites area.

    Managing labels

    Favourites uses labels to group saved items together.  From the Favourites area, you can perform the following operations on saved items:

    • Add, edit or remove label – click on the text or pencil icon below the item
    • View all items with a particular label – click on the label at the right hand side

    Managing items

    From the Favourites area, you can select a number of items using tick boxes and then perform the following operations on items:

    • Add or remove labels
    • Unpin (remove from Favourites)
    • E-mail - e-mail the selected items
    • Print - print the selected items
    • Export citation – in a range of formats

    Using queries, alerts and RSS feeds

    This section includes:

    What is a query?

    A query is a word or phrase you specify in the search panel to request information. You can do the following with queries:

    • View queries and results for the current session (click ‘Search history’ from the login menu at the top right)
    • Save a query from the current session in order to use it later
    • Activate alerts on your saved queries so that they will provide you with updated results from queries
    • Activate RSS feeds to receive updates for your favourite queries - for more information see Activating RSS feeds
    Viewing and saving queries

    If you are signed in, you can save a query by clicking the Save query link, which appears at the top of the results list. You can access your saved and session queries by clicking the ‘Search history’ option from the login menu.

    This area contains the following folders:

    • Search history - this folder lists all of the queries that you have performed in the current session
    • Saved searches - this folder lists all of the queries and alerts that you have saved

    NOTE: If you are not signed in, your queries are available only during the current session

    You can run a saved query yourself, or you can set it as an alert that runs automatically at scheduled times and sends you new results by e-mail.

    What Is an Alert?

    An alert is a process that runs your query automatically at scheduled times and sends you new results via e-mail.

    Viewing and activating alerts

    To view the list of alerts, click the Saved Searches tab. To configure an alert for a saved query, click the alarm bell icon next to that query.  You will be alerted by email when new results are available in that search query. 

    Activating RSS Feeds

    Syndicated content, otherwise known as Really Simple Syndication (RSS), is a popular way to distribute information from web sites. For example, using RSS, a news site or a blog can automatically feed its news articles or entries to a group of subscribers.
    RSS feeds in Explore are used to notify you of new items found by the query. RSS feeds can be activated from either the search results or the Saved Searches tab. All you need is to have an RSS reader installed on your computer.

    If your browser supports RSS, click the RSS button. A window from which you can subscribe to the RSS feeds opens. Follow the instructions in the window.
    If your browser does not support RSS, right-click the RSS button, copy the URL, and paste it into the RSS reader.

    Databases not covered, or partially covered, in Explore

    The content of the databases below is not included, or is only partly included, in Explore. Some results from these databases will appear in Explore, but for a comprehensive search please search the databases individually.

    • America: History & Life
    • American Film Index Catalog
    • Art & Architecture Source
    • CINAHL Plus
    • Dentistry & Oral Sciences Source
    • EBSCO eBooks Collection
    • EconLit
    • Film Index International
    • Historical Abstracts
    • Library & Information Science Source
    • Nexis UK
    • PEP - Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing
    • PsycExtra
    • Safari
    • SPORTDiscus

    Databases for which you need to be logged in

    Some databases require you to be logged in to Explore to include their search results. Please see our list in the "Your account in Explore" tab.

    Using Explore Access Points in our libraries

    If you are using an Explore Access Point in one of our libraries, these sections provide extra help for this type of machine in addition to the Explore service help below.

    Explore Access Point

    About Explore Access Points

    Explore Access Points provide public access to our Explore service. For full details about the service and how to use it please see the help page.

    What can I do with this Explore Access Point?

    You will be able to use the Explore service much as you can from your own PC, laptop, tablet etc. but there are some electronic resources you will not be able to access because of licensing restrictions unless you are a UCL member (note: you will be required to login).

    These resources include the following:

    • Lexis Library
    • Nexis UK
    • Quintessence
    • Westlaw UK Journals and Law Reviews

    Please note that non-UCL users won’t be able to access these resources.

    The Explore Access Point will allow you to save files to a USB stick as long as it does not carry encryption software.

    You can also send references to yourself using Explore’s e-mail functionality.

    Printing is not possible from Explore Access Points.

    For security reasons, please refrain from paying any fines or fees online at Explore Access Points.

    Tip: To open a link in a new tab, click and drag the link to the tabs area at the top of the browser.

    Saving files to a USB stick


    UCL has taken all reasonable care to ensure that pages published by central offices were accurate on the stated date of publication or last modification. Other pages which may be linked to the UCL home page or to other UCL pages, or which have a UCL address, may have been published by departments of UCL or other units of the College or associated with the College, or by staff or students acting entirely in a personal capacity. UCL takes no responsibility for the consequences of error or for any loss or damage suffered by users of any of the information published on any of these pages, and such information does not form any basis of a contract with readers or users of it.

    It is in the nature of Web sites, many of which are experimental or constantly changing, that information published may be for test purposes only, may be out of date, or may be the personal opinion of the author. Readers should verify information gained from the Web with the appropriate UCL authorities before relying on it.

    Material published by UCL central offices is copyright UCL and may not be reproduced without permission. Copyright exists in all other original material published on the Web by staff or students of UCL and may belong to the author or to UCL depending on the circumstances of publication. The UCL 'dome' logo and the letters 'UCL' are the registered trade marks of UCL and may not be used without permission.

    How do I save a file to my USB stick?

    Insert your USB stick into one of the free USB slots on the left hand side of the PC. Your USB stick will be known as 'Removeable Disk (E:)' or be identifiable by its name if it has one.

    Saving PDF files

    Open the .pdf file you wish to save. The file will display in Adobe Reader. Click the save icon and in the window which opens, find your USB stick ('Removeable Disk (E:)' or identifiable by its name if it has one) under 'Computer'.

    Click your USB stick and navigate to the location on the stick you want to save your file to. Enter a name in the 'File name:' box and click 'Save'.

    How do I check that my files are saved?

    At any time, you can click on the Windows Start button and then click on 'Computer' on the menu which appears. This will open a window which will allow you to look at the contents of your USB stick (labelled either 'Removeable Disk (E:)' or identifiable by its name if it has one).

    Ejecting your USB stick

    Please make sure you eject your stick when you have finished your session. To do this, click on the up icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen followed by the 'Safely Remove Hardware and Eject media' icon (plug with green tick). Click the entry for your device on the list which appears and you should see a pop up saying it is safe to remove your hardware.

    Further Help

    For further help with using Explore Access Points, please ask at one of Library Services' Enquiry Desks.

    Your account in Explore

    Why should I sign in?

    When you sign in to Explore, you are able to do the following:

    • See loan periods for books in the library: Loan periods are only shown once logged in (this is a feature of the software which allows different loan periods depending on the type of library user – not currently in use at UCL)
    • Request items currently on loan or in the Stores: You can request a book on loan, so that it is held for you (in a queue) upon return. Standard loan books are recalled in order to fulfil such requests. Closed access books can also be requested this way.
    • Place an inter-library loan request: You can request an item not held by UCL, as described by the inter-library loans service information.
    • View your current loans and requests: see My Library Account below.
    • Search across all possible data sources: Some data sources are restricted by licensing to library members only. Signing in ensures you retrieve all possible search results. See section Databases for which you need to be logged in, below, for a full list of these data sources. 
    • Add items you found and queries you submitted permanently to your basket: You can save items from your results list to your basket and you can save queries that you have performed for future use
    • Set alerts for your queries: You can set a query to become an alert so it runs automatically and sends you email notification once it locates new items relating to your search criteria
    • Set or change personalised ranking of journal articles by your subject area

    Why should I sign out?

    If using a public machine, you should sign out of Explore so that your searches remain private and your personal settings and basket are not tampered with by anyone else.

    My Library Account

    My Library Account enables you to view the contents of your library card and use library services, such as renewing a book or cancelling a request. To access My Account, click the My Library Account link, which appears in the drop-down menu at the top right of the Explore screen.

    Personal Settings

    You can personalize your results by clicking on the ‘Personalize’ option at the top of the results list. You can select one or more disciplines in which you are interested. This boosts articles from certain journals up the rankings whenever the results of your search may cross several disciplines.  To disable this option, simply click on the ‘Personalized’ link.

    Changing your password (other library members)

    You can change your password from within your Explore library account.
    1. Click on Sign in
    2. Select Other library members
    3. Enter your barcode and existing password

    If you have forgotten your password, please contact your nearest UCL library

    Explore sign-in screenshot

    4. Once logged in your name will appear in the top right corner of the Explore screen.
    5. Click on the drop down list and select My Library Account

    Explore user menu

    6. Click on Personal Details

    Explore personal details screenshot

    7. Click on Change PIN/Password
    8. A new window will appear which allows you to change your PIN or Password.
    9. Enter your existing password.

    Your new password has to adhere to the following policy

    • At least 8 characters in length
    • 1 uppercase letter
    • 1 lowercase letter
    • 1 number

    10. Type in your new password and then confirm it by typing it in again.

    Explore change PIN / password screenshot

    11. Click on save.

    Explore change PIN / password saved screenshot

    How do I pay my fines and fees?

    There are a number of different ways to pay your fines, including the option to pay your total fines and fees online using your personal laptop or mobile anytime and anywhere. Please see the ‘How do I pay my library fines and fees?’ FAQ on our borrowing and managing your account page for more information.

    Databases for which you need to be logged in

    Please note that you need to be logged in to Explore to include search results from the databases listed below.

    • ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM)
    • C.H. Beck Journals
    • Design and Applied Arts Index (DAAI)
    • FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals Database
    • GeoRef
    • Humanities Index (BHI)
    • International Bibliography of Art (IBA)
    • Japan Society of Applied Physics Journals
    • PAIS Index
    • Physical Society of Japan Journals
    • PTSDpubs
    • Russian Central Newspapers
    • Russian Regional Newspapers
    • Scopus
    • Sociological Abstracts
    • Web of Science - Arts & Humanities Citation Index - 1989-
    • Web of Science - Science Citation Index Expanded - 1989-
    • Web of Science - Social Sciences Citation Index - 1989-
    • World News Connection - South Asia
    • World News Connection - Western Europe