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Daemen College Library: Search Strategies - Best Practices

Tips & Tutorials

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Boolean Operators, Truncation, and More

Boolean Operators give us options for how we combine search terms.  They use the terms AND, OR and NOT to determine a relationship between the words you are searching for.

Boolean Operator AND

AND 
The results will return only records that contain both the word chocolate and the word cake.  This would be useful if you were looking for a recipe for a chocolate cake. The operator AND narrows your search.

Boolean Operator OR

OR
The results will return any record that the word chocolate or the word cake.  It will return results that have just one of the terms or both of the terms together.  This would be helpful if you were looking for a variety of desserts within the categories of chocolate or cake. The operator OR broadens your search.

Boolean Operator NOT

NOT
This search will return results that contain the word chocolate, but will exclude those that include the word cake.  This would be useful if you aren't interested in cake, but you want information about chocolates.  If it's a recipe for chocolate cake, it will not show up. The operator NOT narrows your search.

Note: You may manually type AND, OR, & NOT in a single search box, or you may separate your terms using multiple text boxes with drop menus to clarify your operator, as seen in the example below.  Capitalization is recommended for visual clarity, but not required.


Truncation, Wildcards, & Quotation Marks

Truncation: Also called Stemming. By truncating, a database will return results that include all variations of a word based on its root. Truncation broadens your search.

Structure

Actual Search

 

Child*

Child

Childs

Children

Childrens

Childhood

Note: Some databases utilize different truncation symbols. Always check a database’s HELP section for more information.


Wildcards: Similar to truncation, but replace only one letter and can be used within a word to account for variations in spelling. This technique broadens your search.

Structure

Actual Search

Wom!n

Woman

Women

Colo?r

Color

Colour

Note: Some databases utilize different wildcard symbols. Always check a database’s HELP section for more information.


Quotation Marks: Create a precise phrase using quotation marks. This technique narrows your search. Use this for common phrases.

Less Precise

More Precise

Global AND Warming

“Global Warming”

Note: Most databases recognize quotation marks, but some do not. Pay attention to bolded terms in a result list to determine whether the database found the phrase or searched by individual keyword.

Parentheses

Parentheses: Think of these in the same way they are used in Algebra (PEMDAS). Anything outside of the parentheses is applied throughout the phrase within. This technique broadens your result list and helps account for variations in phrasing, commonly used acronyms, etc..

Structure

Actual Search

Male AND (BPD OR Borderline Personality Disorder)

Male AND BPD

Male AND Borderline Personality Disorder


 

Bonus

By combining all the techniques above, you can create one complex search from multiple simple searches.

Review the example below.

 

Structure

Actual Search

(Autism OR “Autism Spectrum Disorder”) AND (Wom!n OR Female*)

Autism AND Woman

Autism AND Women

Autism AND Female

Autism AND Females

“Autism Spectrum Disorder” AND Woman

“Autism Spectrum Disorder” AND Women

“Autism Spectrum Disorder” AND Female

“Autism Spectrum Disorder” AND Females


Bonus 2.0

Did you know you can use these same techniques in Google?  You can always access these tools in Google by clicking on the gear-shaped menu in the upper right corner of a result list and choosing “Advanced Search.”

 
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