BIOL 1510 Biology II: Keywords & Boolean Operators

info question Facebook Twitter user Ask Skip the menu to the main content

Searching in Databases

A database's search engine does not work just like Google. 

    

This means that you cannot type your entire research question/topic in the search box.  Instead, you must pull out the keywords that describe your topic and use only those keywords (or related terms).  Here's a short video on how to find the keywords of a research topic:

Boolean Operators

Combining Your Keywords with Boolean Operators

Once you find your keywords, you then have to indicate the relationship between the keywords using Boolean operators AND, OR, or NOT.

AND                                     

 

  • AND finds results that contain all of the keywords
  • AND finds less results and helps narrow your search
  • Example Search: Strawberry AND Vanilla AND Chocolate will find results that contain all three flavors

 

OR

 

  • OR finds results that contain at least one of the keywords (but not necessarily all)
  • OR finds more results and helps broaden your search (when you are not finding enough)
  • Example Search: Strawberry OR Chocolate OR Vanilla will find results that contain at least one of those flavors 

 

NOT

not

 

  • NOT excludes keywords from the results
  • NOT narrows your search but should be used cautiously to avoid accidental exclusions
  • Example Search: (Strawberry OR Vanilla) NOT Chocolate will find results Strawberry and/or Vanilla but excludes any results that mention Chocolate

(adapted from content created by Helen Hooper, Sharon Bryan, and Kylie Bartlett of James Cook University -- Writing Guide)