Techniques for Entering / Running Your Search

Phrase search Use quotation marks around your phrase
Truncation (sometimes called "wild card")
  • Example: photo* looks for photo, photograph, photography, photographer, etc…
Use an asterisk (*) with a word stub
Choose a field to search
  • Often searching the ABSTRACT, SUBJECT, or TITLE field will narrow your search
  • (An ABSTRACT is a summary of the article)
Drop-down menus
Resource category limiters
  • Which library is it in?
  • When was it published?
  • Scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles only?
  • Etc.
Drop-down menus or check boxes
Boolean operators --see examples below
  • Family AND sibling will find fewer results
  • Family OR sibling will find more results
  • Family NOT sibling will eliminate certain results
Drop-down menus

Techniques for Narrowing / Broadening Your Results

Resource category limiters– [to narrow your results]
  • Publication dates
  • Source types
  • Subjects
  • Etc.
In right or left column on the Results Page
Subject heading hyperlinks– [to broaden your results]
  • Runs a new search based on that subject heading
Links in the FULL record

Using Boolean Operators: AND, OR & NOT

Look for AND, OR & NOT drop-down menus


Example search

The search will find...

Venn diagram
results shown in pink

AND narrows a search, resulting in fewer hits.

north carolina AND prohibition items containing "North Carolina" and "prohibition." And venn diagram

OR broadens a search, resulting in more hits.

zimbabwe OR rhodesia items containing either "Zimbabwe" or "Rhodesia" or both. Or venn diagram

NOT eliminates some unwanted results.

mexico NOT new mexico items containing "Mexico" but not "New Mexico." Not venn diagram

Adapted from Duke University Libraries' "Advanced Searching Techniques" (no longer available online).
Creative Commons License

Searcher's Glossary

Abstract -- a brief summary of an academic article, conference presentation, dissertation, etc.; this is a searchable Field in a Database record

Boolean logic -- a system for narrowing / broadening search results using the operators AND, OR and NOT; the user chooses the operator as he/she enters the search terms and before clicking "Search"

Database record -- information about a source (e.g., title, author, subject, format, source, etc.)

Field -- a piece of information from a Database record (e.g., title)

Full-text -- all of the actual words in the actual article, e-book, or other source

Keyword or phrase -- a word or phrase that you will type into a search interface; the search engine will crawl the Database records in the database (and/or the Full-text of the database contents) looking for these words/phrases

Limiters -- categories of information commonly used to limit a search either before or after you click "Search"; database systems usually provide check boxes or other means of selecting limiters

Results -- a listing of the Database records that were found by the database search engine

Subject heading -- a word or words that describe the subject of the article, book, etc.: this is a searchable Field in a Database record