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Education: Search Tips

A guide for locating online research resources in Education

Search Tips

Keyword Searching: Other Search Tips:
Using AND Using Quotation Marks
Using OR Using Truncation
Using NOT Using Wildcard Searching


General Search Tips

When searching in the library databases, keep the following tips in mind:

Keyword Searching:

When turning your research question into a search statement, make sure to only use the most important concepts from the question.

Example: What are the legal issues surrounding ethnic studies programs in higher education?

Boolean Operators:

Use the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT to link your keywords in a search statement.

AND: use AND to link your keywords when you want the database to look for every term. 

Example: Legal AND "ethnic studies" AND "higher education" 

*Linking terms with AND will narrow your search results

Video Tutorial: Using Boolean Operator AND

OR: use OR when there are several synonyms or related terms for one of the concepts in your research question. OR tells the database to look for any one of the terms it links, rather than all of them at the same time. 

Example: ("higher education" OR colleges OR universities)

*Parentheses must be used around terms linked by OR so the database interprets the search correctly

*Linking terms with OR will expand your search results

Video Tutorial: Using Boolean Operator OR

NOT: Use NOT to exclude results from your search that mention a specific term

Example: ("higher education" OR colleges OR universities) NOT "High school"

Using NOT will narrow your results, but use it carefully. It will exclude results that mention a term even once--even if they're not the focus of the article. 

Video Tutorial: Using Boolean Operator NOT

The final search statement for the topic above would look something like this:

(law OR legal OR legislation) AND "ethnic studies" AND ("higher education" OR colleges OR universities)

Other Search Tips:

Quotation marks: Use quotation marks to search for phrases of two or more words.

Example: "higher education"

If you type higher education (without quotation marks) into a database, it interprets it like this: higher AND education

It looks for each word, but not necessarily used together. Using quotation marks will search for those words together, in that order, and can drastically reduce the number of search results while improving their relevance. 

Video Tutorial: Using Quotation Marks

Truncation: Use truncation when you want to search for multiple word endings

Example: child/children, psychology/psychological

How to Use: Place the truncation symbol(*) after the common root of the words you want to search for: child* psycholog*

*The truncation symbol is usually an *, but you can check the "Help" section of any database to find out which symbol it uses

Video Tutorial: Using Truncation

Wildcard searching: Use wildcard searching when you're searching for words that have a variable letter in their spelling

Example: woman/women

How to Use: Place the wildcard symbol(!) in the place of the variable letter in the word: wom!n

*Different databases may use a different symbol for wildcard searching. Check their "Help" pages to make sure you're using the correct symbol. 

Video Tutorial: Using Wildcard Searching

Search tips and strategies

Using databases more effectively