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ANTH3010: Research Methods in Anthropology : Search Tips

How to Use Boolean Operators

Searching with AND, OR and NOT

Once you’ve developed your terms, you can begin entering them into the Online Catalog, subject databases or even a Google search.  You'll find that fewer terms are often needed for the Library Catalog, while more are necessary for Internet searches.  In terms of database searches, though, the following applies.

Often, the Library databases are set to default to a simple Keyword search.  This simply takes the terms you enter and tries to match them with words in an article or citation.  Boolean terms can help to focus your search, providing more control over how your terms are identified.
Boolean terms are simple, mathematical words (AND, OR, NOT, etc.) that help to create more complex searches.  This is where our list of alternate terms (above) comes into play.  Because most databases are matching tools (taking exactly what you enter and matching it with parts of an article record), it is important to be able to communicate your intent, clearly.



AND combines two different concepts, requiring that both concepts be present in an individual article.

In our columns, above, AND would be used horizontally, and would return fewer results.

Trombone AND Salsa Music


OR takes two or more similar concepts, allowing your results to include either the first term, the second
term, or both terms.

Using OR will return more results, and should be used with terms within a specific column of our chart.

Trombone OR Sackbut


NOT takes the first term, but omits the second.

Using NOT will return fewer results.

Nuclear NOT Family

These Boolean terms can be combined into complex searches, although many databases have Advanced Search features that make this easier to do.