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BES 301: Science Methods & Practice (Price): Search Strategies

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching uses three operators:

AND

  • Finds sources containing two or more ideas
  • The database will only retrieve items containing both words
  • AND narrows your search
  • You can use AND many times in one search
  • Example: electronic AND voting

 

OR

  • Use OR when searching for synonyms
  • OR will retrieve items containing either word
  • OR broadens your search to include synonyms and related words
  • You can use OR many times in one search
  • Example: electronic OR internet OR web




 

NOT

  • Use NOT when you wish to exclude records from your search results
  • Be careful when using NOT: the term you want may be present in an important way in results that also contain the word you wish to avoid   
  • Example: pets NOT dogs

 

Nesting search terms using: parenthesis ( )

  • Make a complex search using both AND and OR by placing parentheses around synonyms so you don't have to repeat searches
  • Nesting saves you time by allowing you to search multiple synonyms at once
  • Example: (electronic OR internet OR web) AND (vote OR voting) - this cuts down on having to do multiple searches for the combinations of keywords

Other Search Tips

Truncation: *

  • The * is a common symbol used to replace any number of letters at the ends of words
  • Helps find singulars, plurals, and variant endings of words
  • Check each database's help pages to see which truncation symbol is used in that particular database
  • Example: adapt* finds adapted, adaptation, adaptations, etc.

Phrase searching: " "

  • Enclose phrases in quotation marks when searching the Web or most databases
  • Phrase searching in individual databases may vary. Check the help pages in each database for additional information.
  • Example: "great depression"

Other limiting/filtering tools: 

  • Most databases let you limit search results. Some limits include:
    • Language  
    • Publication type
    • Date of Publication, etc.