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First Year Seminar - Search Strategies (via WebEx)

Keyword Search Connectors, Commands, & Symbols

Effective and efficient use of keyword searching requires the researcher to understand:

  • Logical connectors
  • Proximity connectors
  • Truncation
  • Exact Phrase searching
  • Parenthetical groupings

Boolean logic, named after mathematician George Boole, is a form of algebra.

Remember:  W (X + Y) = Z


Logical operators are used to improve your search results by using Boolean logic to connect your search keywords.


A single database record is the unit to which the logical operations are applied.  So your retrieval will only include records that contain your terms in the relationships that you specify within that individual record.


The three standard logical operators are:

AND  =  retrieve records with this word AND that word.  (reduces # of hits)

OR    =  retrieve records with this word OR that word. (increases # of hits)

NOT  =  exclude records with this word.  (reduces # of hits)




Example:  This classroom is a database.  You are each individual records in that database.


Shoes AND Jeans 


Shoes AND (Jeans OR Pants)  
      AND ( OR )


Shoes AND (Jeans OR Pants) NOT Socks

          AND ( OR ) NOT


Databases prioritize how your search is performed using the logical operators.  This is known as Search Precedence.

  • Most databases give AND precedence over OR, which means that terms linked with AND will be searched first
  • Search precedence can be overridden using parentheses in your search string


Parentheses are used to combine multiple keywords and operators together in a logical search.

Gaming AND (Twitch OR YouTube)

Twitch AND (Gaming OR Streaming)

Gaming NOT (Twitch OR YouTube)


Most databases will need it specified that adjacent words are to be searched as phrases.  You create a phrase search by using quotation marks " " around your terms.

"Civil Rights Act of 1991"


Connectors and symbols can vary by database, so always look at the help or advanced search sections.  Concepts are the same, just the symbols & commands can change.



% is the Westlaw connector for NOT


Truncation takes the root word and puts the symbol (* or !) at the end to search endings. It is a technique where you search various word endings & spellings.

Child* = Children, Childbirth, Childhood

Laugh* = Laughter, Laughing

Theat* = Theater, Theatre, Theatrical

Bot* = Both, Bottles, Bother, Botox, Botanical


Wildcards use a symbol (*) to substitute for a letter(s) of the word.

colo*r = color, colour

wom*n = woman, women, womyn


Proximity Connectors allow searching by specifying the search words proximity to each other.

within - /n - Appear within "n" words of each other

adults /6 gaming = Gaming time increasing for young adults

Emilia /5 Clarke = Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke

dogs /p cats

dogs /s cats

Online Poll!

1. Which of the following is most likely to retrieve fewer than 1,000 records?

Natural Language:

How have miners in Kentucky, with black lung disease, been affected by The Affordable Care Act?

Concepts (Words, Synonyms, and Acronyms):

Kentucky miners black lung coal workers pneumoconiosis obamacare obama care ACA affordable care act

Keyword Search Query:

adv: Kentucky AND (miner* /p ("black lung" OR "coal workers pneumoconiosis" OR CWP)) AND (obama care OR "obama care" OR ACA OR "affordable care act")



I want to investigate how broadcast news has covered the question: