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Search Tips

Search Defaults

Internet browsers like Google and subscription databases like Academic Search Premier usually have a default search logarithm. Most common is the "Boolean AND" which just means that all the words you type in the search box need to found in the articles that your search terms bring up. The AND operator is implied. If you want to search for a phrase you will need to put it in quotation marks--"global warming" or "Romantic poets"

 

A default "phrase search" means that you need to type in a one word or a phrase without quotation marks. If you have more terms or phrases in your search you will need to separate them using the Boolean operators (AND, OR, or NOT) explained below.

Using Boolean Operators (AND, OR, and NOT)

Learning to use Boolean Operators between your key words or phrases can greatly enhance the quality, quantity, and specificity of the information you find. Boolean and other logical operators act as signals to search engines and other databases to connect your key words in specific ways. By using them, you get more control over the content of the articles that will come back to you, as well as the number of articles that will come back. You can read further or just watch this You Tube

The AND Operator

Connect your search words with the operator AND to indicate to the search engine or database that you want all articles that come up to contain all of the search words. This has the effect of narrowing your search.

So the search term "fishing AND Minnesota" should return only articles that concern both Minnesota and fishing.

So "world bank AND India" when you are interested only in how the World Bank operates in India.

 

Operator
Search Phrase
Effect
Search Diagram
AND
"media AND violence"
Narrows your search so that only articles containing both search terms come back to you. Limits search results.
AND diagram

 

(Here one circle stands for all the articles about media and the other for all the articles about violence; the red portion indicates what you get back from the search.)

 

The OR Operator

Connect your search terms with OR to indicate that the articles that come back should contain at least one of your terms and may include both. This has the effect of broadening your search.

In "women OR females" articles could come back that mention only women or only females or both.

Use "teenagers OR young adults" when either term will do.

 

Operator
Search Phrase
Effect
Search Diagram
OR
"doctors OR physicians"
Broadens your search so that all articles containing the word "doctors," as well as all articles containing the word "physicians," come back to you. Broadens search.
or diagram

 

(Here one circle stands for all the articles about "doctors" and the other for all the articles that mention"physicians"; the red portion indicates what you get back from the search.)

The Not Operator

Use the operator AND NOT or NOT to exclude terms from your search results.

So "apples AND NOT computers" when you are interested in apples you can eat.


Operator
Search Phrase
Effect
Search Diagram
NOT
"computer networks NOT wireless"
Brings back articles about wired networks and none that are about wireless networks. Limits search results.
and diagram


(Here one circle stands for all the articles about computer networks and the other for all the articles about wireless computer networks; the red portion indicates what you get back from the search.)


Nesting: Use Operators in Combination

"(dogs OR canines) AND heart worm"

"(computers AND Apple) AND NOT software"

"(movies OR television) AND children AND violence "

 

You can read further or just watch this You Tube

 

Remember that each database or search engine is different. Some may allow you to use operators, some will ignore them. It is best to check the Help screens to see what operators, if any, will be allowed.

Truncation & Wildcards

Use truncation when you want to search for all words that share the same root.

So, when you use the asterisk* symbol to signal truncation, the search term instruction* brings back not only records that include the term instruction, but also records with instructions and instructional. Alien* searches for alien, aliens, alienated, alienation, and alienist.

Use wildcards when you want to replace unknown letters/characters in a term. Wildcards are useful when you are not sure how to spell a word, when there are alternative spellings of the word, or when you know only part of a term.

So for example, when the question mark (?) is a wildcard symbol, you can use it if you are unsure how to spell the word relevant: relev?nt.

Use it when you are looking for both woman and women: wom?n.

Defen?e will bring up both defense and defence (the British spelling).

Truncation and Wildcard Symbols by Database

Most databases allow you to use truncation and wildcards so that you can find various forms of words or unknown characters within words. However, each database has its own rules for which symbols to use. Online help within each database will give you the information you need to make use of these symbols.