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Search Strategies and Techniques

This guide will walk you through various search strategies you could use in the library databases.

Boolean Operators

To search multiple keywords at once, you need to use connector terms, also called Boolean Operators. Using a Boolean Operator will tell the database to connect the terms together in your search.

There are three Boolean Operators:

  • AND: All keywords must appear in your results. AND will narrow down a search.
  • OR: Either of the keywords must appear in the results. OR will give you more results.
  • NOT: Excludes certain keywords from your results. NOT will narrow down a search.

Depending on the database you are using, there may be place to choose which Boolean Operator you want to use, or you may have to type them in with your keywords.

Click on the below tabs to learn more and see examples of Boolean Operators.

AND

AND is the most common of the Boolean Operators. AND will narrow down your search so you get less results, because it is telling the database that your search results must include every one of your search terms.

When you use AND to combine your keywords, keep in mind that while you will get results that have all of your keywords together, they might not necessarily be next to one another.

Examples

students AND community college

concussions AND football

textbooks AND student success


Searching Using AND - EBSCO 

Advanced Search in EBSCO for students AND community college with AND outlined in a red box with a red arrow pointing to it.

 
Searching Using AND - Gale

Advanced Search in Gale for students AND community college with AND outlined in a red box with a red arrow pointing to it.

OR

The Boolean Operator OR broadens your search. Remember that in database searching, OR means MORE results. OR tells the database that you want results that mention one or both of your search terms.

OR is a helpful operator to use if you have a search term that has multiple meanings, like preschool OR nursery school. You will notice when you do your searching, that some authors might use the term "preschool" and others will use "nursery school" to mean the exact same thing. OR helps you make sure that you find the most possible articles about your topic. 

Examples

traumatic brain injury OR TBI

Artificial Intelligence OR AI

Salem Witch Trials OR Salem Witchcraft Trials


Searching Using OR - EBSCO

Advanced Search in EBSCO searching Artificial Intelligence OR AI with OR outlined in a red box with a red arrow pointing to it.

Searching Using OR - Gale

Advanced Search in Gale for Artificial intelligence OR AI with OR outlined in a red box with a red arrow pointing to it.

NOT

The Boolean Operator NOT helps narrow your search by excluding certain terms from your search. When using NOT, you are telling the database that you want information that is related to the first term, but not the second.

NOT is useful if one of your keywords has multiple meanings that keep giving you irrelevant results.

Examples

Hedy Lamarr NOT Hollywood

presidential elections NOT United States

dinosaurs NOT extinction


Searching Using NOT - EBSCO

Advanced Search in EBSCO for Hedy Lamarr NOT Hollywood with NOT in a red outlined box and a red arrow pointing to it.

Searching Using NOT - Gale

Advanced Search in Gale for Hedy Lamarr NOT Hollywood with NOT outlined in a red box with a red arrow pointing to it.