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Research 101

What we will learn:

  • How we use search techniques to improve our search and save time
  • How we search Google more effectively. 

Basic & Advanced Search Techniques

Boolean Operators

When we search we often want to communicate with technology as if it is human, for example we typing in our entire research question. This way of communicating is called natural language. And while people who create databases and search engines have become better at making algorithms that understand our natural language, it is not the way databases "talk". 

For technology to understand us, it requires a special set of conventions, including: Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), truncation symbols, nesting, and quotes. Databases and search engines apply these rules differently, so check the HELP files in the database you are using to find out more.

This video explains AND, OR, NOT and how to use them. 

Advanced Search Techniques

In addition to AND, OR, NOT there are additional symbols that can help improve your searches called Boolean modifiers. As we will see in the video below, these Boolean modifiers can help refine your search. 



Use AND to retrieve both search terms


Use OR to retrieve either search term(s)


Use NOT to exclude search term(s)

" "

Use " " to keep the order of words or phrases intact

( )

Use ( ) to organize the order of relationships in your search


Use * to the end of a term to search all ending of the root word, e.g. govern* retrieves government, government, govern, governs, governor 


Use ? to find alternate spellings, e.g. wom?n retrieves woman or women 

More tips for searching within search engines & databases:
  • Text is not case sensitive

  • Most search engines do not search punctuation or certain words, e.g. the, a, of, by

  • Check the help section of the database or search engine, as advanced search options may differ. 

Google Search Tips

Did you know that we can also use Boolean operators and symbols to search google more efficiently? Watch this video to learn more!

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The content of these guides, unless otherwise noted, by Kirk Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.