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Research Basics: 2. Effective Searching

How to search and find library resources

Effective, efficient searches retrieve the items that are most closely matched to your research topic, reducing the time that you will have to spend evaluating the results. Each research tool is different, but you can find out which search strategies are supported by using the Help provided in the tool. Even Google has Help! In addition to the Help, many advanced search forms contain search tips, and many will list the supported search strategies.

Search Strategies

Boolean Operators

The common Boolean operators ANDOR, and NOT can be used to combine search terms or strings (multiple search terms) to either expand or narrow searches.

  • Use AND to narrow results. Combining meteor AND "International Space Station" will retrieve items that contain both concepts, but exclude items that contain only one or the other.
  • Use OR to expand results. A search for meteor OR "shooting star" retrieves items that contain either one of the concepts. The OR operator works best with similar terms, such as the academic and informal versions of one concept (example: "meteor" and "shooting star").
  • Use NOT before a search term to exclude all results that contain the specified term – very narrowing!

Most databases offer advanced search forms that allow you to combine concepts using Boolean operators.

Adapted from: Information Literacy Concepts: An Open Educational ResourceAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BYNC-SA 4.0)  Adapted from Mastering Academic Research developed at Florida Institute of Technology. Adapted from Research Foundations from Seminole State College of Florida Library.

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