Be a Good Searcher for Information
Boolean operators form the basis of mathematical sets and database logic.
Why use Boolean operators?
Databases follow commands you type in and return results based on those commands. Be aware of the logical order in which words are connected when using Boolean operators:
Use NOT in a search to:
Use AND in a search to:
The purple triangle in the middle of the Venn diagram below represents the result set for this search. It is a small set using AND, the combination of all three search words.
Be aware: In many, but not all, databases, the AND is implied.
Use OR in a search to:
All three circles represent the result set for this search. It is a big set because any of those words are valid using the OR operator.
* Truncated Word Searches
Advertis* = advertise, advertising, advertisement
Child* = child, children, childhood
Comput* = compute, computer, computers, computations, computational, computerized, computing, computable
Computer* = computer, computers
Gene* = gene, genes, genetics, geneticist, genetically
Truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.
Similar to truncation, wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word.
If you have questions about applying this technique to your search, Ask Us!
To find subject headings for your topic:
Another way to find subject headings:
Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database. Use these headings to find relevant items on the same topic. Searching by subject headings (a.k.a. descriptors) is the most precise way to search article databases.
It is not easy to guess which subject headings are used in a given database. For example, the phone book's Yellow Pages use subject headings. If you look for "Movie Theaters" you will find nothing, as they are listed under the subject heading "Theaters - Movies."
Keyword searching is how you typically search web search engines. Think of important words or phrases and type them in to get results.
Here are some key points about each type of search:
When you search a database and do not get the results you expect, ASK US for advice.
Different databases interpret searches differently. A common variation is how databases recognize phrases.
Know how your database searches, check in the information section of your database
Most databases allow you to specify that adjacent words be searched as phrases.
Why should you care about stop words?
How can you avoid using stop words in your search?
Choose the most significant words that describe your topic and connect them together using Boolean operators or proximity operators.
Search for your terms in specific fields, such as author, title or subject/descriptor.
Many databases allow you to specify that the words you are searching are within a certain proximity of each other.
Proximity operators also vary by database, but some common ones include:
w# = with
n# = near
Consult the database Help screens to find out how to search by phrases or to specify proximity. You can also Ask Us for advice on searching phrases.
Records in library databases are comprised of fields containing specific pieces of bibliographic information. Common fields include:
The record belows shows the field names on the left: Author, Title, Source, Standard No., Details, Language, Abstract, Descriptor
Limiting your search to specific database fields can yield more precise results.
Need help understanding fields? ASK US!