EconLit Search Hints

Institutional subscribers should contact their information service provider
for help with proprietary search interface questions or support. 


This brief tutorial explains how to refine your search results using EconLit bibliographic fields.

  1. Get started with a "free-text" search using subject terms or phrases.
  2. Too many search results? Try refining your search criteria using field information to narrow the search.

Each EconLit record includes the following fields:

Title | Author | Author Affiliation | Source | Publication Information | Publication Year | Document Type | ISSN or ISBN | Keywords | Subject Classifications | Named Persons | Geographic Descriptors


For most types of documents in EconLit, the author field is straightforward. In book reviews, the author field contains the name of the reviewer. In books, authors or editors appear in the author field. Editors’ names are followed by the abbreviation “ed.” or “eds.”

Author Affiliation

Collective volume articles, journal articles, and working papers contain an author affiliation field. The book author’s affiliations are listed at the end of the abstract for the book. Thus, to limit your search to books published by authors from a given institution, the institution should be used as a limiter in the abstract field. Author affiliations may use abbreviations such as: state postal abbreviations, “Econ” for economics, and “U” for University or non-English words that mean University.


The source of the document depends on the document type. For a journal article, the source is the journal. For a collective volume article, the source is the collective volume in which it appears. For a book review, it is the journal or collective volume in which the review appears.

Publication Information

The publication information depends on the document type. For a book, it is the book’s citation. For a dissertation, it is the degree granting university. For a working paper, it is the working paper series.

Document Type

Searches in EconLit may be limited by one or more document type(s). Specify "Journal Article", "Book", "Collective Volume Article", "Dissertation", "Working Paper", or "Book Review" for more particular results.

Book records in EconLit are identified by the word "Book" in the Document Type Field. A search specifying the word "Book" in the Document Type Field will locate records of both books and full-text book reviews, if available. (To eliminate reviews from a search, use the "NOT" command available on most search services). Alternatively, to find only reviews of books, specify "Book Review" as the document type.

See the types of economics literature indexed on EconLit in the Document Types Section for examples and complete descriptions.


Once you have found a book or collective volume's ISBN or a journal's ISSN, it may be useful to use this number to search for other items related to the book, collective volume, or journal. A search for an ISBN will result in the book, book review, and any separately indexed articles in the book. A search for a journal's ISSN will result in all of the articles from that journal that are indexed on EconLit.


EconLit records updated since 1991 also include keywords from a controlled vocabulary list. The keywords augment the limited terms in the EconLit subject descriptors, which are based on the JEL Classification System headings.

Subject Classification System

The EconLit subject descriptors can be helpful in narrowing a search to a specific subject area of economics. The EconLit subject descriptors are the same as the Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) classifications also known as the American Economic Association Classification System. On EconLit, a zero has been added to the JEL classification to make a four-digit descriptor code. For example, the JEL classification "A11 - Role of Economics; Role of Economists" appears on EconLit as Role of Economics; Role of Economists (A110). When searching by subject code on EconLit, it is necessary to use all four digits, i.e. A110, or a truncation symbol. [Note: Truncation symbols are specific to the information service provider’s search engine. Examples of truncation symbols are “?” or “*”.]

When using the subject classification system, you may search by subject descriptor codes or by using subject descriptor terms (either as free-text or limited to the descriptor field, depending on your information service provider). For instance, if the searcher is interested in trade between specific countries, the relevant subject descriptor is "Country and Industry Studies of Trade (F140)," which would narrow the search considerably from the hits on the word "trade”. Notice that using a subject descriptor (or the shorter code, F140) is more precise than limiting the search by insisting that the record include a specific phrase, such as "foreign trade" or other specific terms, because the lack of such specific terms will eliminate relevant records. However, appropriate terms can be used in combination with subject descriptors to further narrow the search. For example, a searcher might use F140 and a relevant term or terms.

EconLit records prior to 1991 were classified using the older JEL numerical classification system. The old classification system appears in the Index of Economic Articles, Volumes 11-38, and in three-digit truncated form in the 1969-1990 issues of the JEL.

See the JEL Codes/subject descriptors page for a detailed description of the classification system.

Named Persons

Documents about individuals and their contributions, including career history, (auto)biographies, and remembrances, as well as Festschrifts honoring individuals, have a named person field. Thus, if you are searching for a study focusing on an individual, use the named person field as a limiter.

Geographic Descriptors

Articles and working papers containing information about countries are tagged with geographic descriptors. Geographic descriptors may be countries, regions greater than countries, and economic groupings, such as OECD, Developing Countries, or Developed Countries.

When an article discusses specific countries or supplies specific country data, the individual country names are used. An article discussing countries as representative of a larger group, such as Latin American countries, will carry the descriptor for the larger group. The largest group descriptor is "Global", which indicates that the article contains information pertaining to all or most of the world. Another descriptor is “Selected Countries”, which indicates information on scattered countries representative of the subject matter. The word "selected" is also used with other country groupings to indicate representative country examples, such as "selected EU".

Book and book review records indexed before 2005 do not carry geographic descriptors, but countries are always named in the abstract. To include books in a search for information about individual countries, use a free-text search of the whole record.