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Research Tutorial

Creating Searches

Combine the key terms using AND and OR (these are called "Boolean Operators").

AND and OR are funny words - they do the opposite of what most people think they're going to do!

  • AND narrows a search down. It says "I have to find everything you've listed or I won't show the result!"
  • OR broadens a search. It says "Well, either one of these words is okay, so I'll show you results with anything you've listed."

In practice this means:

  • Different concepts are joined with AND. This narrows your search by finding only items which contain all of the words or phrases. Adding more terms with AND will mean fewer results.

College + sports = college AND sports

  • Synonyms or alternate terms are joined with OR. This broadens your search by finding items which contain any of the words or phrases. Remember, OR means more.

University OR College

  • "Truncation" or "wildcards" are another useful tool when searching.

    They allow you to type part of a word and find all the words that start with those letters. Usually (but not always) you use an asterisk to truncate. This allows you to find all variations of the root word without having to search each one of them individually.

athlet* can mean athletic or athlete

Searches can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them. Most databases have advanced search pages that make it very easy to fit everything together.

So for the example above, you could create a very simple search:

College AND Sports OR Athlet*

Or a much more complicated one:

Screenshot from database advanced search page boxes. Three lines of search boxes Top box: College OR University. Second line: “and” in a dropdown box. Search box sports OR athlet*. Third line “and” in a dropdown box. Search box is empty. Add a row and Remove a row options are shown on the bottom of the boxes.

You'll see more search boxes like this when we get to the Searching in the Databases section of the tutorial.

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