WorldCat for Students of Slavic

Open in another browser window to work through this tutorial side by side.

Discover the more advanced search features in WorldCat, while also learning about the complexities of transliterated Cyrillic script in bibliographic records.

Use the arrows below to navigate through the tutorial.

Using the page to your right, Select WorldCat.

You may be prompted to enter your UA NetID and password.

You are now in WorldCat

Selecting an Author

For this tutorial, you'll need to choose a well-known 19th or early 20th century Russian or Soviet author or historical figure

Cyrillic text


Selecting a name with one or more letters that tend to be problematic for transliteration will help.

More Cyrillic text


If you've decided on one, go to the next page. If you haven't, any of the names quoted above should work just fine, but feel free to try something different as well.

Identify the Authorized Spelling

1) Identify what seems to be the “authorized” transliterated spelling for your figure’s name used in library catalogs.

  • Do this by trying searches in WorldCat using various spellings for your figure and looking at (and within) the records returned.

NOTE: This may take some trial and error and snooping around. If you're not sure, use the form that seems to be most common or standardized.

2) Using what you assume to be the "authorized" spelling, put your figure’s last name in the first "Search for" box on the Advanced Search page. 

3) Select “Subject” in the drop-down menu next to the box (you may need to scroll down to find it) and do a  "Search."

Limiting by Language

1) From the "List of Records" page that is returned, Limit buttonselect the "Limit" icon (in the navigation bar).

2) Next, select the plus sign [+] next to “Limit Your Results by Language.”

3) Browse through the records for the languages listed (by selecting the different languages and then browsing through the results). Take note of how many different spellings you find.

NOTE: You often may have to look at the full records (not just the results list) to find many of the alternate spellings.

NOTE: Another way to find alternative spellings would be to limit by publication date. Different spellings are used not only across languages, but also many common spellings have changed over time.

How many different spellings did you find for your figure's last name?

Bibliographic records are your friends!

Let's dig in and find out why bibliographic records can be so helpful.

1) Select one of the records returned for your figure to bring up the Detailed Record (also called the full bibliographic record) in WorldCat.

2) Take note of the different "fields" that make up the record. 

3) select one of the links provided within a field (Author, Named Person, Descriptor, etc.).

  • Every record in the returned list of results shares that same "controlled vocabulary" (e.g. is by that same author, about that same person/topic, etc.). 
  • So, these links, or "access points," in bibliographic records can seamlessly connect you to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of relevant, related works.

Nice, huh?

Advanced Functionality in WorldCat

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Now let's dig a little deeper using the advanced search functionality combined with the different fields in a bibliographic record.

1) Go back to the AdvancedAdvanced Search drop-down Search screen (you can use the "back" button on your browser or click the "go to page" drop-down in the navigation bar and select "Advanced Search").

2) Now go to the drop-down menu to the right of one of the search boxes and make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom.

  • Check out the plethora of different fields you can limit your search to!

Advanced Functionality in WorldCat

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Ok. Now let's put this search functionality to work.

Let's say your eccentric thesis advisor is at her wits end trying to locate an obscure book she needs to cite in a conference paper that has to be submitted by the end of the day. 

She's implored you to help and has been able to remember a few random things about the book. Some may help, some may not:

  • She's pretty sure it was written in Swedish (she lived on a goat farm/commune near Uppsala after her parents fled the USSR in the 1970s);
  • The cover was red with a picture of a dove or some other small bird in a cage;
  • The book was a biography of Dostoevski;
  • She's pretty sure it was published in Finland, likely in Helsinki [Helsingfors in Swedish].

Using the ability to search within different fields in WorldCat, help her identify the author.

Advanced Functionality in WorldCat

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What is the author's last name?


Advanced Functionality in WorldCat

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These exercises should have underscored:

  • The importance of figuring out the authorized spelling (or specific terminology) used within a particular database or catalog,


  • How to take full advantage of the controlled vocabulary found in bibliographic records as well as a database's advanced search functions.

Letting others' work work for you

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Now that you have a better understanding of advanced searching in WorldCat and bibliographic records, you should be able to much more efficiently identify relevant materials.

Another important strategy to employ - one that may also improve the quality of the sources you discover - is taking full advantage of the work of previous scholars.

Using what others have done before you is not cheating; it is good common sense.

  • It can save you a huge amount of time
  • It can also help you better understand the history of scholarship in your discipline and the relationships between works

Letting others' work work for you

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1) To get started, go to WorldCat's Advanced SearcAdvanced Search drop-downh (you can use the "back" button on your browser or click the "go to page" drop-down in the navigation bar and select "Advanced Search").

2) Type "Dostoyevsky" in the first box, and use the drop-down menu to limit to "Subject"

3) In the second box, type "bibliography" and also limit to "Subject"

4) Do a "Search"

What did you find?

Finding Sources on Particular Topics

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Now let's look at trying a similar search, but for a different topic.

Just as finding sources on Russian figures can be complicated by the variety of spellings, finding sources on particular topics is often complicated by which words a database or catalog uses as its "controlled vocabulary" for a particular topic.

Finding Sources on Particular Topics

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So, considering that, how could you modify the previous search to find a list of sources for your end-of-course paper on Russia and the Great Fatherland War?


  • If you don't know what controlled terms WorldCat uses, try different searches (or use OR between synonyms for the term within a box) and don't limit to a particular field  (just keep it on "Keyword").
  • Once you return a few relevant records, you can always look to see what controlled terms are used and adjust your search accordingly
  • You may also want to use truncation to expand your search (in this case, placing an asterisk [*] at the end of the word stem - e.g. friend* will return records with the words friend, friends, friendship, etc.)

Finding Sources on Particular Topics

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What term(s) did you find WorldCat uses for this topic?


Good work! You've completed this tutorial.

Let's review what we've learned:

1) Russian names and words can be transliterated dozens of different ways;

2) Identifying and using the "authorized" spelling within a particular database is critical to doing effective searches (and "authorized" spellings may be different from one database to another!);

3) Scrutinizing one or more bibliographic records in a database can give you valuable information to improve your search strategy;

4) Identifying print bibliographies on your topic can provide you access to the entire history of scholarship on a given subject.

You're Almost Done!

Just about done! Go to the next screen to test your skills with a quick quiz. Once you finish, send the results to your instructor using the email form that is provided.


Using Worldcat, work backwards to figure out how Dostoyevsky is transcribed in Chinese (but using Latin characters)

Ok. What is the authorized spelling for Peter the Great in Worldcat?

In what year were the highest number of books authored by Peter the Great published (according to Worldcat holdings)?

Do a search for all the titles in Worldcat that have Peter the Great listed as a Subject. Which author is associated with the highest percentage of the titles about Peter that are held in Worldcat?

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.

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