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MATP 600 - Dr. Sublette: The Art of Searching


Truncation allows you to get more out of your search term.

Often times the databases do not understand plurals.

For example:

A search of OIL SPILL might give you 70 Results.

A search of OIL SPILLS might give you 186 Results.

However a search of OIL SPILL* will give 203 Results.


Truncation Symbols Vary:

Library Catalog and Most Databases is: * (asterisk)

Lexis Nexus is: ! (Exclamation Point)

Searching Tips

Use quotation marks around a phrase to find an exact match.  For an exact match of an author name, use the format 'Last name, First name'

Use the Thesaurus feature of a database to discover the best search terms for that database.  Use the Help feature to discover the most efficient methods for performing complicated searches.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators allow you to combine your keywords into search query that the databases understand. The words AND, OR are the most commonly used Boolean operators. The third is NOT, which is difficult to use because it can exclude useful results. 

AND combines your search terms and looks for them together in search result. Example: A search for distance AND education will retrieve records that have both keywords.  To further define your results, you can string many terms together using the AND operator, for example, education AND reform AND federal

OR separates your search terms, finding records that contain either keyword. Example: A search for theses OR dissertations will retrieve records that contain just one of the search terms as well as records with both of the search terms.

NOT finds records that only have the first keyword, excluding the second keyword. Example:  A search for Rap NOT Country will find only records containing the Rap but not the second keyword. However if there was an article title: Why Rap Music Tells a Better Story Than Country Music, the database will ignore the article even though it is useful because of the use of the Boolean Operator NOT. I do NOT recommend use of this Boolean Operator, it can be too exclusive and hurt your research.

 Operators included in quotes are processed as part of the search term, rather than as operators. For example, if you search “Washington and Lee”, your results will include only those records containing the complete phrase, not the individual words Washington and Lee.

Additional Examples

Question: I want to know more about music's influence on Urban Culture?

Your search should be constructed as an using Music AND Urban Culture . Your results will include records where both terms appear.

You can add an additional term to your search such as Los Angeles. Your search will be narrowed down to only have results that have all three words   Music AND Urban Culture AND Los Angeles.


Question: I need to find information on Freeways?

Think of synonyms for the word, Freeways OR Highways will help you retrieve more results.


Question: I am look for information on Hybrid Cars?

By NESTING you can use both AND and OR: Hybrid  AND (Cars OR vehicles)