Summon is Western Libraries’ main search product, and the default search box on both the Western Libraries homepage and the Beryl Ivey Library homepage. It was introduced to allow students to find all different kinds of resources (i.e. journal articles and books together) in one quick, easy-to-use search – a function that neither the Shared Library Catalogue nor databases facilitate.

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When you search Summon you are looking at Western’s Shared Library Catalogue content in combination with roughly 90% of our online, full-text journal articles. Why is this important? Essentially, it means that Summon is a great alternative to traditional database searching. When you’re looking for journal articles, databases will show every journal article available on a given topic, including the ones we don’t subscribe to – which means you may get results you can’t access L.

In contrast, Summon generally only provides the articles you can access. Depending on what topic you’re searching, there are a few “citation only” journal articles (this means that an abstract might be displayed in Summon, but the full-text article will not be linked there). However, those are relatively uncommon.

Here is my Official Pros and Cons list for using Summon:

PROS:

  • Easy to use:  if you’ve done any online shopping, Summon’s functioning will seem familiar.  It’s easy to limit your search results (i.e. by format, by library, by date) and to save your favourite articles.
  • Interdisciplinary: almost every program can use Summon as their first step in the research process. For Brescia’s interdisciplinary programs like Foods and Nutrition, Family Studies, or Community Development, this can save you a lot of time and guesswork in choosing a database.
  • Citation formatting: once you’ve sent items to your “saved” folder you can view them in a variety of popular citation styles, including APA, MLA, and Uniform Requirements.
  • It’s easy to find full-text journal articles: professors will often provide you with a citation of a journal article to read for class.  It’s much easier to find these readings through Summon, as you can simply type in the name of the article and often find it on the first try.
  • Full-text articles: while there are some limitations to Summon’s functioning, it is easier to find full-text journal articles over traditional databases. Usually.

CONS:

  • Missing content: case-law and some business publications are not included in Summon. This would affect our Criminal Psychology students at Brescia, as well as our MOS students. Print journal articles are also not included. So, for almost every student doing a research project, it’s still important to rely on databases to search for journal articles – otherwise you risk missing important research.
  • SFX window: the Get it @ Western or SFX window links you between Summon and the full-text of the article – most of the time. Many students (and myself) have expressed their frustration with this window, as it doesn’t seem to make much sense and often doesn’t work. There are ways around this issue, which the library can help you with (refer to this page if you’re having trouble!), but it’s still unfortunate.
  • Too much information? Results not appropriate for your subject?: because Summon is searching every discipline, our online journal articles, and the catalogue, it’s possible that you can get too many results in your search (like when you’re searching Google).  Again, this means that it’s often necessary to use a database when you’re searching for journal articles, as it will narrow your search specifically to your discipline.
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