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Search Tips: More Search Tips

Improve your searches using these basic search tips.

Boolean Operators

Most library databases use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) you can use them to broaden or narrow your search results.

AND searches for records that use both terms and narrows your results:

renewable energy AND China

Combines results of both terms in this instance is renewable energy and china

OR searches for records that use either term and broadens your results:

renewable energy OR win OR solar

This search combines a search of renewable energy or wind or solar

NOT excludes words from the search and narrows your results:

peacekeeping NOT United Nations

This search excludes words from the search to narrow results. Peacekeeping not united nations

Database search fields

Records in library databases are made of “fields.” Fields can help you narrow your search.

  • author
  • date/year of publication
  • title
  • subject/descriptor
  • abstract all text (searches the full text, if available)

Improving Search Results with Fields

  • Most databases automatically search by keyword (looking for the term anywhere in the record).
  • Limit the search field for a term to narrow results.
  • Fields are usually in drop down menus.
  • If the database has a single search box with no drop down menu, look for an “Advanced Search” option.

Phrase Searching

Use quotation marks or parentheses around search words to search for a phrase.

Example: “united nations peacekeeping forces”


Use parenthesis to put search words into sets. Terms in parentheses are processed first. Use nesting with and, or, and not.

Example: success and (education or employment)


Broaden your search to include variant word endings and spellings. Enter the root of the word then the truncation symbol [usually an asterisk (*)].

Example: elect* = election, electoral, elections


Substitute a symbol for just one character. The most commonly used wildcard symbol is a question mark (?).

Example: wom?n = woman, women