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Database Search Tips

Boolean Searching

Boolean searching allows you to search using multiple terms. The Boolean search operators are AND, OR, and NOT. You can use these operators to create a very broad or very narrow search.
  • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, ethics AND business finds articles that contain both ethics and business.
  • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, spiritual or faith finds results that contain either spiritual or faith or both.
  • Not excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, jazz not basketball finds results that contain jazz but not basketball.

AND

OR

NOT

Each result contains all search terms.

Each result contains at least one search term.

Results do not contain the specified terms.

The search business AND ethics finds items that contain both business AND ethics. The results will not contain items that only have one of the terms.

The search hope OR resilience finds items that contain either hope or items that contain resilience. This will be a lot of results.

The search Jazz NOT Basketball finds items that contain jazz but do NOT contain basketball.

Using Booleans with Parentheses

To make better use of Booleans, you can use parentheses to retrieve more search combinations in one step.

When you enter (hope or resilience) AND business, the search engine retrieves results containing the word business in combination with either hope or resilience.

Improving Search Results

When searching databases, if you receive zero or few results, you may want to refine your search. There are several ways to alter your search so that the maximum search results are returned.

  • Try broadening your search to locate terms not only in the citation and abstract but also within the full text of the article. By marking the "Also search within full text of the article," you will expand the search.
  • Use the “thesaurus” or “subject terms” link. Most databases provide you with a way to find the terms it uses to classify articles. Instead of using keywords “online learning,” you may find the database uses “electronic learning” or “online classes” as official subject terms.
  • Try unmarking one or more limiters. Limiters narrow your result list—depending upon the limiters you've chosen, you may have created too narrow of a search.
  • The Advanced Search Screen allows you create a Boolean search with operators such as AND, OR and NOT. These searches are not designed to yield significant results if you enter long phrases or questions in everyday English.

Truncation

Use truncation symbols to create searches where there are unknown characters, multiple spellings or various endings. The truncation symbol cannot be used as the first character in a search term.

Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *.

For example, type comput* to find the words computer or computing.

Note: The Truncation symbol (*) may also be used between words to match any word.

For example, a midsummer * dream will return results that contain the exact phrase, a midsummer night’s dream.

Using Quotation Marks for phrases and Exact search

When your search string includes phrases, the default search order is that phrases are searched in the order in which they are typed in and with the words right next to each other. It is recommended that phrases be enclosed in quotations marks when included in searches.

Typically, when a phrase is enclosed by double quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. This type of search is useful when you are looking for a very narrow topic or just mention of a topic in an article, i.e. “pork barrel spending.”