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Searching for a specific paper

How do you search for a specific paper?

Note: the Quick Start series is designed to get you started with the new interface. More advanced information on searching can be found in the Search Syntax help page and other pages in the “Making a Query” and “Search Results” sections.

A common task in the ADS is locating a specific paper, often for download or for retrieval of the bibliographic data. In this case, a user usually knows an author name (often the name of the first author), plus a publication year. This type of search is simple, but knowing some tips and tricks can make the process proceed more quickly and smoothly.


  • Use fielded queries to ensure you receive the expected results.
  • Use the Classic Form to automatically create fielded queries and replicate the ADS Classic look and feel. (Note: advanced and fulltext search fields are not available in the Classic Form.)
  • Make use of tag auto-completion when entering fielded queries to speed up search term entry.
  • It is not generally recommended that you initially search on author affiliation as a number of publishers do not provide this information to ADS. Additionally, variants on institution name may confuse the search results.

Fielded vs. unfielded queries

The one-box search field accepts both fielded queries, where the user specifies the field being searched (such as year:) along with the search terms, and unfielded queries, where no search fields are explicitly specified. Unfielded queries automatically search all metadata fields; this may not produce the expected results.

We recommend that you use the field tags (e.g. author:) when searching for a known author and/or year of publication. However, you do not have to type the full tag or select it from the list each time you search. Auto-completion is enabled, so you can start typing the tag, then press Return to accept the auto-complete when the appropriate tag is shown. The cursor will automatically be moved to the appropriate spot within the tag to type the search term.

Querying when author and year of publication are known

  1. Click on the author tag in the Quick Field area, or start typing author: and press Return to accept the auto-completion.
  2. Fill in the author name.
  3. Do the same for the year: tag and year of publication.
  4. Press Return or click the Search button to begin the search.
a short
   animated image showing querying by author and year

Querying when the first author is known

Follow the same procedure as for a known author, but to trigger the first-author tag autocompletion, use the standard caret (^) operator or start typing “first author.”

Note: for a first-author search using the ^ operator, you do not have to specify the author tag. Typing ^last_name is an abbreviation for author:”^last_name” and will produce the expected results.

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   animated image showing querying by first author using the caret operator


If your search by author and/or publication year returns too many results, you can use interactive filtering to narrow down the results instead of editing your original search query. Filtering by author or publication is often useful when a paper is known.