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Research Process

Get help with any part of the research process.

In order to find the most relevant information, use these strategies in databases and online to develop a search string that will get you the best results.

Choosing Keywords for your Search

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching is the traditional way to search for information in most online databases and on the Internet. Boolean operators or connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, are used to create phrases and concepts based on specific rules of search logic.  

Connecting Word   Examples Results
AND

business AND ethics
cooking AND Spain

Retrieves records that contain    
ALL of the search terms.
OR

hotels OR motels
theater OR theatre

Retrieves records that contain
ANY of the search terms, but
does not necessarily include
all of them.
NOT

java NOT coffee
Clinton NOT (William OR Bill)    

Excludes records containing
the second search term.

Truncation/Wildcard Symbols

Truncation or wildcard symbols can broaden your search and allow you to look for variations of words.

Truncation refers to truncating, or shortening a word. For example, a search for sport* would find all variations of the word "sport" such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc

A wildcard refers to the use of a symbol anywhere in your keyword to cover multiple spellings, such as wom*n for woman and women. 

Note: The truncation symbol varies depending on the electronic resource you are searching. For more information, consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages.

Search Strategy Builder

Search Strategy Builder


The Search Strategy Builder is a tool designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. While it is not a database and is not designed to input a search, you should be able to cut and paste the results into most databases’ search boxes.

  Concept 1 and Concept 2 and Concept 3
Name your concepts here    
Search terms Search terms Search terms
List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words, or "short phrases" in quotes

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

Now, cut and paste the results into the search box of a library database (or Google).
 
The Search Strategy Builder was developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License.

Search Tips and Strategies for Google

Take a look at these search tips and strategies to help you produce the results you want.

For more explanation, visit Google's page on how to refine a search

Search Tips Examples
Searches are not case sensitive.

Barack Obama and barack obama will retrieve the same results.

Avoid natural language queries as they can limit your results.

Use colorado statehood instead of when did colorado first become a state.

Google automatically searches for all versions of a word. To prevent this, use quotation marks around each term (see below).

A search for child retrieves results with children and childcare.

Use double quotations marks ("") to search terms as a phrase and narrow your results. Google will only retrieve results that have those exact terms in the exact order typed.

A search for "Barack Hussein Obama II" will retrieve only those sites that refer to Obama by his full name. Sites that refer to him as simply 'Barack Obama' may not be included.

Use the "site:" feature to limit your results to a specific website or type of website.

The search cloning site:online.wsj.com will only retrieve articles about cloning from the online version of the Wall Street Journal. A search of cloning site:.gov will only retrieve results within the government domain.

To allow for either of several words to appear in your results, use the OR operator. The operator must be in all caps.

A search for hotel OR lodging OR inn directories will retrieve any or all of the types of directories mentioned.

To exclude any words or terms from your search, use a minus sign (-) in front of the word or term A search for hotel -"bed and breakfast" will retrieve any results for hotels, but will not include any for bed and breakfast lodging.

Advanced Google Searching

Advanced Google searching can make a huge difference in your search results. Watch this video to see how.