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Summer Start 2015: Constructing Your Search

Other Techniques

Wait, there's more! Try the following techniques to make your searches even better.

Phrase Searches

Often keywords are more than one word. Databases let you put quotation marks around these so that only results with the exact phrase are listed.

"rap music"

"cell phone"


Shortening a keyword to its basic root and adding a special character (usually an asterisk "*" or "?") at the end will tell the computer to search for variations on the word.

Searching for politic* will find:


Note: Check the database's help screens to see which truncation symbol it recognizes. (Most Pierce databases use the asterisk as the truncation symbol.)


Combines concepts and techniques. The database will search for what's grouped or nested inside the parentheses first.

("rap music" OR "hip hop") AND censorship



Boolean Searching 101

Databases, like JSTOR, Academic Search Complete, and others, think in terms of Boolean logic.

Boolean connectors - words like AND, OR and NOT - are the words that glue our keywords together into a search that the database understands. 

We use the words ANDOR, and NOTeveryday in conversation without even thinking about them. But when we use these common words in a search engine (like Google), the library catalog, or a database they become powerful search tools.

Boolean Operators are INSTRUCTIONS to a search engine on HOW to combine your search terms and control what type of results you get from your search.