Searching Copac

The first time you go to the Copac Home Page, you will see the Quick Search form. Use the tabs above the search form to switch to the Main Search form for more options, or the Map search form to just find maps, atlases etc. On subsequent visits the Copac Home page will show you the search form you last used.

Quick search

The ‘Quick search’ lets you enter some basic search terms. An author name and title is usually a good way of finding an item if you know what you are looking for.

Enter your search terms into one or more of the search boxes, eg:

  • Author: Handy C
  • Title: gods of management
  • Keyword: Bryant organizational change

Select the Search button to carry out your search.

More on the Search Fields below

The ‘Main search’ form offers a wider range of search options, including a limit to Journals.

Note that records can vary in content, so the more information you enter the more likely you are to miss records with limited content. Eg. Not all records will have a date of publication, so if you include a date and don't find what you are looking for try removing the date limit.

More on the Search Fields below

Map search

The ‘Map search’ form limits your search to cartographic materials only. So good for finding maps, atlases etc.

Note that not all records are correctly identified as 'maps' so if you don't find what you are looking for try using the ‘Main search’ form.

More on the Search Fields below

Search tips

  • Phrases: Put speech marks around your search terms if you want to search for a phrase.
    E.g. gods of management
  • Wildcards: Use * at the end of the root of a word to search for different word endings,
    e.g. photograph* will find records containing the word photograph, photographs, photographer, photography etc.
  • Non-Roman scripts: You can search using scripts such as Arabic, but older records may not include original script text,
    eg: Title: ترجمه من الألمانية أرشد
    Older materials, as well as recent ones, will include transliterated text. Transliteration variations can be a problem, so try variant spellings,
    eg. try searches for Dubrovsky vs Dubrovskii

Too many or few results, or not what you expected? Try

  • Check your spellings or try different spellings, e.g. try labor instead of labour
  • Try American terms, e.g. replace car with 'automobile or vice versa
  • Use broader/narrower search terms or alternatives e.g. replace ’German measles’  with ‘rubella’

Sign in to Copac for:

  • Search History: review your research activity and re-use searches
  • My References: flag records of interest as you search to create personal reference list.

More on the Search Fields

Author names, editors, translators etc. Search

For people, enter the name in a familiar form, eg:

  • T. S. Eliot
  • Jane Austen
  • Clarke, Arthur C

Use surname and initial(s) to find all first names starting with those initials. This can help where you're unsure of a spelling, whilst records can vary in whether they include the full name or just initials.

When the author is an organisation, enter an acronym, full name, or the main words of the name.

  • Eg WHO or World Health, will both find items by the World Health Organisation

Title Search

Enter the full title, the start of a long title, or just the main title words. Eg.

  • Musick in the Masque of Comus
    or just
  • Masque Comus

Journal Article Search

There are currently very few journal articles recorded on Copac, so to search for the location of an article you need to seach for the title of the journal.

Using the ‘Main search’ form enter the Journal title in the Title field. To avoid finding books with the same title, use the ‘Material type’ field to limit the search to Journals & other periodicals. Eg:

  • Title: Plant breeding
  • Material type: Journals & other periodicals

Publisher Name Search

Publisher names can vary in records so only use this if you need to. Enter the main word(s) e.g.

  • Collins
  • Routledge

Maps: Place Name Search

Enter the name of the place in which you are interested. Eg:

  • World maps - just enter World
  • Regions and Countries, eg: Europe, eg: Denmark
  • Part of a region or a country eg: South Australia, eg: Southern Australia.
  • Towns and cities eg: Manchester, eg: Fort William
  • Political areas eg: Derbyshire, eg: Peak District National Park
  • Landscape features eg: Windermere, eg: Snowdon
  • Footpaths eg: West Highland Way
  • Parks and gardens eg: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

For a phrase use quote marks, e.g. “Great Glen”.

If a search fails try looking for a broader region that might include the area of interest, eg. to find Wicken Fen try a search for Cambridgeshire.

The Place name search looks for your search terms in the document title, series title, content notes, and subject terms of the records.


  • Not all maps and plans are correctly defined as maps. If you can't find what you are looking for try searching the whole database using the Main Search or Quick search screens.
  • The Place name search on ESTC searches the title and subject fields only.

Maps: Fuzzy Scale Search

  • You can search for an approximate scale of map, select the list box and choose a scale. The system will look for that scale plus a range around it, eg:
      Scale - Fuzzy: c. 1:2000.
    will find scales in the range 1:1,468 -1:3,161

The Fuzzy search does an approximate search for the map scale you choose. A full list of the scale groups used is available. As far as possible all scales have been indexed as ratios in the form 1:<no.>, eg. 1:50000.

Note: You don't need a scale to search for details of a map.

  • The Fuzzy Scale search is best used where you are looking for older maps or you don't need a specific scale.
  • Use the Exact scale match if you want a modern map with a specific scale.
  • For older materials scales have often been converted from the original scale (eg. in inches, or chains) to a standardised scale in the form 1:<no.>, with rounding of the converted figures. This means the scale given in different records can be variable, even where the maps themselves may be to the same scale. Eg. In two records for maps that have an original scale of 5 miles to an inch, different ratios have been used:
    ie: Scale [ca. 1:320,000] -- Scale [ca. 1:316,800]
    The fuzzy search will find many of the records with these variant scales.


  • Not all maps and plans are correctly defined as maps. If you can't find what you are looking for try searching the whole database using the ‘Main Search’ or ‘Quick search’ screens.
  • ESTC at the British Library: ESTC records do not contain standardised scale forms and there is no explicit way for us to limit a search of ESTC to a map scale. Thus your search may retrieve some irrelevant materials from ESTC.

Fuzzy Scale Groups

A fuzzy scale search looks for the scale you choose from the drop-down list, plus other similar scales. The scales that the system searches for are taken from the following scale groups (boundaries given are approximate). For example, if you choose the scale '1:5,000' from the drop-down list on the search screen, the system will search for all scales from c.1:3162 to c.1:6812.

Scale Groups for Fuzzy Scale Searching
Scale groupLower scale limitUpper scale limit
< 1:140 14
c. 1:2015 31
c. 1:4832 67
c. 1:12068 146
c. 1:184147 315
c. 1:500316 680
c. 1:1,000681 1,467
c. 1:2,0001,468 3,161
c. 1:5,000 3,162 6,812
c. 1:10,0006,813 14,677
c. 1:25,00014,678 31,622
c. 1:50,00031,623 68,128
c. 1:100,00068,129 146,779
c. 1:200,000146,780 316,227
c. 1:500,000316,228 681,291
c. 1:1,000,000681,292 1,467,798
c. 1:2,000,0001,467,799 3,162,277
c. 1:5,000,0003,162,278 6,812,920
c. 1:12,000,0006,812,921 14,677,992
c. 1:20,000,00014,677,993 31,622,776
c. 1:40,000,00031,622,777 68,129,206
>= 1:68,129,207 68,129,207 infinity

Maps: Exact Scale Search

You can search for the exact scale of map you need eg:
  Scale - Exact: 1:50000.

Note: You don't need a scale to search for details of a map.

  • The Exact Scale search is best used where you are looking for a modern map likely to have a consistent scale in the record.
  • Use the Fuzzy Scale search for older materials where the scale may vary.

If you don't mind what scale of map you find then you don't need to enter any scale.


  • Not all maps and plans are correctly defined as maps. If you can't find what you are looking for try searching the whole database using the ‘Main Search’ or ‘Quick search’ screens.
  • ESTC at the British Library: ESTC records do not contain standardised scale forms and there is no explicit way for us to limit a search of ESTC to a map scale. Thus your search may retrieve some irrelevant materials from ESTC.

ISBN/ISSN etc. Search

The ISBN, ISSN, ISMN etc. are unique numbers offering a quick search and you need no other search terms, The search will check for a range of publisher numbers but most are unlikely to appear in the records. Eg:

  • ISBN/ISSN etc.: 9790708105046
  • ISBN/ISSN etc.: 0955-2073

If you copy and paste an ISBN into the Copac search field, make sure that you remove any hyphens. E.g.

  • 978-0141195438 should be 9780141195438

Subject Search

The Subject search checks the subject fields, content notes fields, and titles of records. Because the Subject terms often use US English it is worth trying variant spellings and terminology eg.

  • Subject: "color chemistry"
  • Subject: "colour chemistry"

Keyword Search

The Keyword search checks the content of the whole record.
Used alone it can find very large numbers of records, but it is worth trying if other searches fail, eg. for conference proceedings where the title may be uncertain.

  • Eg. Keyword: Sorrento biotechnology

Year of Publication Search

You can limit your search results to documents published in one or more years. A date range can be useful when you're not sure of an exact date of publication.
Use a Single date to limit a search to documents published in that year eg.

  • Date published: 1890
  • Date published: 1750-1760
  • Date published: -1650
  • Date published: 2015-


  • Not all records have dates, and some records have errors in the dates. If you can't find what you are looking for try repeating the search without the date limit, or change a single date to a date range around the relevant year, eg. change 1990 into 1989-1991.
  • Limiting a search by a large date range, eg. 1960-1980, can make it slow.
  • It is not possible to search for a date range on the ESTC data.

Place of Publication Search

Enter a place name to find documents published in that place. Eg:

  • Place published: Reykjavik

The ‘Place published’ is best used where you are interested in the publishing output of a particular place.


  • Older records may not include a Place of publication. So if you fail to find what you are looking for, or you want a comprehensive search, do not include Place published.
  • Older materials may contain their place of publication in Latin form eg. Oxoniensis. In many cases the English version will be included for searching (ie. Oxford) but this will not always be the case. So if it is essential to include a place of publication, then for comprehensive coverage of early materials you might need to do separate searches using Latin and English forms of the place name.

Material Type Search

To limit the number of records found you can include a specific type of material.
Eg: to find the Garden History journal search for:
    Title: Garden history
    Material type: Journals & other periodicals
This ensures you just find journals and you exclude books, videos etc.

Note: To limit a search to maps and related materials use the separate Map search screen.

The Material type options are:

  • Electronic resources, Computer programs etc.: includes online books and journals, computer programs, documents with associated material on CDROM etc.
  • Journals & other periodicals: materials identified as periodicals, such as journals, annuals, conference series etc.
    Note that documents such as annual conference proceedings may be treated as periodicals by some libraries but as books by others.
  • Music scores & Sound recordings: materials identified as music as well as non-music sound recordings, eg: print and manuscript music scores, recorded music, books and plays on tape or CD etc.
  • Theses: eg. PhD theses and similar work. May also include documents originally submitted as a thesis and subsequently re-published.
  • Visual materials: materials identified as visual materials, such as videos, films, prints, photographs, paintings, kits with mixed materials, physical items such as geological samples, etc.


Not all materials are correctly identified in terms of their material type. This is a particular problem for older materials where videos or music may be identified as books. So if you restrict your search results by material type you to miss some relevant material. If you are seeking a specific item and you fail to find it, try removing the Material type limit and repeating the search.

ESTC at the British Library: Unfortunately it is not possible to limit a search of ESTC to a specific material type. We have tried to work round this, but you may still find some irrelevant materials, whilst it is also possible you will miss some relevant ones.

Language Search

To limit the number of records found you can include a language. Select the Language list then type the first letter of the language you want and/or use the scroll bar alongside the list.

This is good for works widely available in translation. Eg. if you want 'La Peste' in the original French, you could restrict your search to French to exclude translations into other languages.

If you do not specify a particular language the search will look for any language.


  • Not all records have a language identified and some have errors. If you don't find what you want are looking for, or you want a comprehensive search, it is worth remove the Language limit and try again.
  • You may find older records representing translations from the language you want.
  • Limiting a search to English only can make it slow. If you are searching for an English language document then a limit to English language is also usually redundant.
  • It is not possible to search for a language on ESTC database. We try to work round this but it may sometimes find irrelevant materials.

Library Name Search

To restrict your search to documents held by one or more libraries:

  • Select the Library list, then type the first letter of the library you want and/or use the scroll bar alongside the list.
  • To select (or de-select) more than one library try holding down the Ctrl key on your keyboard when you select the library names.
  • If you do not choose a library the search will look for works held by any library.

Branch Library search

Some Copac contributors have multiple college or branch libraries included within their catalogue. Where you select one of these contributors from the Library list an additional 'Held at' option appears below. This allows you to limit your search to a specific named branch library.

The Held at option is most valuable for contributors with many separate libraries. For example, the National Trust has libraries in many widely distributed properties, whilst the Oxford catalogue on Copac includes materials held in many individual Oxford college libraries as well as in the Bodleian Library.


  • Limiting a search to several libraries may make it slow.
  • If you Limit a search to ESTC you must enter another search term otherwise the search will fail.

Help and Advice

For help or more information contact the Copac Helpdesk:

Twitter: @copac