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Online Search Techniques

These techniques will help you find information from library databases and search engines.

Create a list of keywords associated with your topic, think about synonyms or variant spellings.
Write them down and keep them with you.
             Write down your topic: Does television encourage aggressive behaviour in children?
               Write down the important words from your topic: television, aggressive, behaviour, children.
               Write down synonyms or related words from your list: television, T.V.; aggressive, fighting, hostile,                                angry; behaviour, action, attitude; children, kids, tweens, teens, etc.

              Simple search: television AND aggressive behaviour AND children         

EXACT PHRASE searching
To look for an exact phrase, type it within quotation marks (" ").
                Example: "attention deficit disorder"

TRUNCATIONS to Expand your Search
Using an asterisk (*) or question mark (?) at the end of a root word allows you to retrieve results containing any form of the root word.
              Example: typing teen* will find teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers


Search techniques for different databases do vary slightly. Most databases use the asterisk as the truncation symbol. Check the Help screen on the database you are using to find the truncation symbol and other searching tips.
Most search engines automatically search for all forms of a root word.


Boolean Operators to Narrow or Broaden your Search

Boolean searching is based on connecting keywords with three basic operators: AND, OR and NOT.

Boolean Operators


Type AND between your keywords to narrow your search. The database or search engine will only retrieve those articles or web pages that contain both words. Using AND will decrease the number or hits or articles or web pages in your result list.

Example: school AND crime

Note: Some databases and search engines (such as Google and Craigslist) allow you to type a plus sign (+) in front of a keyword when doing a basic search. This works the same as AND.

Example: +school +crime


Type OR between your keywords to broaden your search. The database or search engine will retrieve those articles or web pages that contain at least one of these words. Using OR will increase the number of articles or web pages in your result list (especially if not used in combination with AND or NOT). Use OR between keywords that are synonyms or have similar meanings. Example: baby OR infant

Type NOT before a keyword to exclude that keyword from your search. Using NOT will decrease the number of articles or web pages in your result list. The best use of NOT is when you are searching for a keyword that may have multiple meanings.

Example: bat NOT baseball

Combing Boolean Operators
Use parentheses ( ) to keep combination searches in order. In the example below, the database or search engine will retrieve articles or web pages that must contain the word law and at least one of the words in parentheses.

Example: (ecstasy OR mdma) AND law

This information has been adapted from Reynolds Library and used with permission.



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