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Quick Guide to INSPEC: Home

Quick Guide to INSPEC

INSPEC provides comprehensive coverage of the world's research literature in physics, astronomy, electrical engineering, electronics, and computer science. It indexes over 3,400 journals and 2,000 conferences each year. Coverage goes back to 1898. You can access INSPEC from the Kresge Engineering Library's Article Databases page.


INSPEC launches with the Web of Science basic search screen. Enter your search terms as a topic search, or use the drop-down menus to change the fields in which your keywords are searched. Search field options include TopicAuthorPublication NameTreatment TypesAstronomical Object, and others.

The default search is all words, meaning the database will automatically retrieve articles that contain all of your keywords anywhere in the record. To override the default search, use boolean operators and/or truncation symbols.

Search Operators (Booleans): To override the default search, use Boolean operators. Enclose exact phrases in quotation marks (""). Nest search operators inside parentheses.

AND finds records that contain both your search terms. 
OR finds records that contain at least one of your search terms. 
NOT finds records that contain your first search term but not your second.

Truncation Symbols: Use truncation symbols to find variant endings and spellings of your search terms.

*   replaces an unlimited number of characters 
irrigat* = irrigate, irrigates, irrigation

?   replaces one character 
gr?y = gray, grey

$   replaces zero or one character 
cell$ = cell, cells, cello, but not cellophane

Author Searching

To search for an author's name, change the drop-down menu to Author and enter the Last name First initial* (note: no comma between last and first names), e.g. Sastry S*. Note that this retrieves all authors named Sastry S, so some results may not be relevant (especially in the case of very common names).

Tip: If you know the author's institution, combine a search for the author's name with a search for the author's institution (drop-down menu choice:Address). This will narrow down your results and make them more relevant.

To browse author names: Change the drop-down menu to Author and click on the Select from Index link. Browse alphabetically or enter a last name first initial to jump to a particular entry.

Search Results and Limiting Searches

Search results are displayed in reverse chronological order by default. Change the order by using the Sort by drop down menu on the top right of the screen. Once you execute your search, you can use the Refine Results menu in order to limit your search results to specific document types, authors, treatments types, languages, or other limits.

Controlled Index: These are related terms from the INSPEC Thesaurus. For more information, see Subject Searching below.

Subject Searching

You can search subjects most easily through keyword searches. For more precise results, use the INSPEC Thesaurus. INSPEC utilizes a thesaurus, or mapped scheme of uniform subject headings, to facilitate subject searching. To identify appropriate subject headings, perform a keyword search then scan the results for relevant articles. View the Complete Reference of an article to see the Controlled Indexing terms, which are linked for easy searching.

You can also browse terms in the thesaurus by changing the drop-down menu option on the main search page to Controlled Index and clicking on theSelect from Thesaurus link.

In this example, a search for the keywords "wireless networks" retrieves related controlled terms.