Learn to Search

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Since library databases work a bit differently than Google, you may notice that putting in a sentence or question into the Search Everything box on the library homepage doesn’t give you results you want. Often called “Boolean operators,” connectors AND, OR, and NOT will make the database search for your keywords in a specific way.

Tip! These are in all capitals so that the databases see them as connectors and not keywords to search!

  • AND will reduce your results and only show sources that contain both the keywords it connects.
  • OR will expand your results and show sources that have either keyword or both keywords. 
  • NOT will reduce your results by excluding sources that contain the keyword to its right.

Example: Adding the connector AND in between the keywords picked out from your assignment will make the database search for sources that contain both keywords.

exercise AND "childhood obesity"
Text form of Boolean Operator Venn diagrams
AND (-) NOT (-) OR (+)
Shrinks your search results Shrinks your search results Expands your search results
Only shows results that contain both keywords Will exclude any results that have second keyword Allows for either keyword or an intersection of both
Example: I want both soup and salad for lunch. Example: I only want soup, I do not want salad for lunch. Example: I'm fine with either soup or salad, or even both for lunch.

Click on the image below to open it in a new window.

Venn Diagram of Boolean Operators

Check Your Knowledge

Basic Filters

Review your assignment or rubric to see which sources are acceptable. These requirements will help you determine the filters to use when setting up your search. Below are two filters that your professors often require for your assignments:

  • Date Range: In many areas of learning, you want to make sure the information you are getting is up to date and current. Typically, your professors will require articles published within the last five years.
  • Peer Review: You will need to find peer-reviewed articles for most assignments. Peer review is a process in which a panel of experts in a particular field reviews an article submitted for publication in a journal. The library databases have both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed sources. To learn more about peer review, review the Peer-Reviewed Articles page of our Evaluating Information research guide.

As shown in the image below, these filters are available under the Filter Results section to the left of the search results when you search from the Search Everything box. Enter the publication date range and select the Peer-reviewed Journals and Articles filters for peer-reviewed articles published within the last five years.