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BIS 300: Interdisciplinary Inquiry (Lambacher): Database Search Strategies

Course guide for BIS 300 section in fall 2022

Boolean Operators

Most databases don't understand the natural language we speak and need help understanding what we're looking to find. For this, they require a special set of conventions, including: Logical or Boolean operators, wildcard and truncation symbols, and nesting. Databases and internet search engines apply these rules differently, so check the HELP files in the database you are using to find out more.

Boolean Logic consists of three logical operators (connectors): AND, OR and NOT

  • Use OR when searching for synonyms
  • OR tells the database that the words can be used interchangeably, so it 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

 

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

Boolean OR

 
Boolean Operator: NOT

  • Use NOT when you wish to exclude records from your search results 
  • Example: pets NOT dogs
  • 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     


Boolean NOT
 

Search Strategy Builder

 

The Search Strategy Builder is a tool designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. While it is not a database and is not designed to input a search, you should be able to cut and paste the results into most databases’ search boxes.

Concept 1 AND Concept 2 AND Concept 3
Name your concepts here
Search terms Search terms Search terms
List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words or short phrases

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

Now copy and paste the above Search Strategy into a database search box.

The Search Strategy Builder was developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License.

Boolean Tutorials

Other Search Tools

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 

Limits: 

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

Phrases: " "

  • 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"