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Advanced Search Screens in Research Databases

How to use the library search engine's advanced search options

Boolean Operators and Truncation

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators are conjunctions that connect, combine, or exclude terms in your search. You can use them in between your search terms when using only one search  line. The operator AND is assumed in databases when using more than one line in an advanced search, unless you change the operator. Some databases need the Boolean operators to be capitalized in order to recognize them as a function, so it's a good idea to always capitalize them when typing them.

What Do Boolean Operators Do?
If you search like this...  The effect is... Sample # of results
media literacy middle school 

Using no operator and including all search terms on one line will return results that have all or most of those words in the record, ordered by which results have those words the most times in the record.

Note: Unlike Google, most academic databases do not work well when you type many words or complete sentences in one search box without Boolean operators. It is best to separate terms by Boolean operators or use the database's "Advanced Search" feature to put your terms on separate lines.

media literacy AND middle school All search results must contain both terms. Usually reduces the number of results. 2,309
media literacy OR middle school Search results can contain one or both terms. Only one term must be present in each item. Usually increases the number of results. 365,532
media literacy NOT middle school Any word following NOT should not be present in any item returned. Excludes results you know you don’t need. Usually reduces the number of results. 21,363

Truncation Symbols

Truncation symbols help you make your search more precise. The most common symbols are double quotation marks, asterisks, and question marks. 

What Do Truncation Symbols Do?

If you use... The effect is... Notes
Double quotation marks e.g.: “middle school” The phrase you type must appear the exact way you typed it in the exact order you typed it. Misspellings will produce few or no results. This strategy will  exclude records in which a relevant term appears in between the words in quotation marks.
Asterisk - * 
e.g.: litera*
The asterisk allows for multiple endings to a word. This example will produce results including: literate, literacy, literature,  literary. Place the asterisk appropriately so you don’t get terms that don’t  apply. “Literature” and “literary” may not apply in this case.
Question mark - ? 
e.g. wom?n
The question mark replaces individual  letters in words that have multiple spellings, such as differences between British and US spellings. This example will produce results that include woman, women, womyn. Does not replace multiple letters, even if they are consecutive.

Searching with Wildcards

Searching with Wildcards helps you learn some advanced search tricks to improve your searches in library databases.The video was created for use with Ebsco databases but the strategies work with most library databases.