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English 101 Guide: Search Strategies

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching uses three operators:



  • 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






  • 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




  • 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: vot* finds vote, votes, voter, voting, etc.
  • Example: communit* finds community, communities 

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: "voter registration" 
  • Example: "electoral college"

Other limiting/filtering tools: 

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


Boolean Search Video

Translating Library Words

Not sure what we mean when we say "article" or tell you to go to the "stacks?" Find translations and definitions of common library terms below!