The key to being a successful online searcher & researcher is to learn, practice and use common search techniques that you can apply to almost any database, including library databases, online catalogs, and even search engines like Google. It is important to learn these so that you will be able to quickly retrieve relevant information from the various sources. The goal of the next few tabs is to explain some of the basic searching tricks and techniques that will enable you to create a more effective (and successful) search phrase. Remember when you search a database and do not get the results you expect, please use Ask-A-Librarian for advice. We are happy to help you find what you need.
**DISCLAIMER** Databases and search engines vary and may use portions of Boolean Searching. This information provided is meant to help in general use.
Boolean searching is the most powerful way of searching a computer and may be used in many of the library's electronic databases, the Internet (Google) as well as the library's eBooks. Boolean searching uses three "operators" to combine your keywords into a more powerful and direct searches. The basic Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT. The operator you choose to combine keywords determines how the computer performs the search and what information it returns. Capitalizing the Boolean operators is not necessary in all databases but is a good habit to have.
For example: Searching
Crime you would get 212,400 results while searching just
Poverty gets 61,500 results. Searching
Crime AND Poverty gets 2020 results. The results are only about crimes that are related to poverty.
For example: Doing research on
Dementia but you do not want to include the topic of
Alzheimer’s, you would search
Dementia NOT Alzheimer’s to receive all of the information regarding Dementia that is NOT related to Alzheimer’s.
NOT is a very powerful operator that should be used with caution.
Children can also be thought of as
Kids. In keyword searching , the computer is literally looking for the word you ask for, not the concept, so if you search for
Kids you only get 104,170 results. By searching
Youth OR Kids OR Children your results are 1,367,728, which is over a million more results.
When needing to do more advanced searching, there are a few more tricks that can help you create more effective search strings. The use of tools such as Exact Phrase (or the use of quotation marks), Wild Card and Truncation symbols, and effective use of Nesting are all more advanced searching tools that can assist you in creating successful search strings.
For the most part, web search engines like Google do not respond to the use of these more advanced searching techniques, but they can be useful in the Library Databases.
DISCLAIMER: Databases and search engines vary and may use portions of Advanced Searching. This information is meant to help in general use. Check the specific database or search engine to see the operators it uses.
Using "quotation marks" to enclose your search terms will force the computer to find your search string EXACTLY as you have it, creating what is know as an Exact Phrase search. Unlike using
AND, where your search results will include both words ANYWHERE in the results, using quotation marks is designed to find your search words as an exact phrase in the order you have typed it.
Example: “Microsoft Office” will only find results where Microsoft is followed directly by Office , so it will not find an article with in my office I use Microsoft nor will it find Office suite by Microsoft.
Google excludes common words in English and in other languages; it calls these stop words. Words such as the, I, “la” (which means “the” in Spanish) and “de” (which means “of” in French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese). When Google ignores a term critical to your search, e.g., LA (common abbreviation for Los Angeles), enclose the term in quotes.
Computers usually perform
NOT searches first, then the
OR searches, but like in a math equation, you can force the computer to perform the
OR search first with nesting. Nesting uses parenthesis () to encase the
OR search string, forcing the computer to complete the
OR search first , and then move on to the
(Georgia OR South Carolina) AND "Teaching Shortage"
ORsearch. The computer first searches for everything that has either Georgia OR South Carolina in it.
NOTsearch. From the first pool of results, it finds items related to
Here's another example. People call electronic mail by several terms. Combining them in an
OR search encased in parentheses creates a pool of results that include all of the variations of terms for electronic mail, and then it limits that pool to only those results that ALSO talk about security.
? as a wildcard and
* as a truncation symbol allows you to create searches where there are unknown characters, multiple spellings or various endings. (Note that neither symbol can be the first character in your search term).
wom?nThis will find women and woman.
*is for truncation , or finding all of the various endings a word could have. A search for
work*will find all of the words that start with work but have different endings such as working, worked, workhorse, etc.