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Researching at NCCS: Tools and Tips: Searching Tips

Made in collaboration with the Class of 2019


Databases think in terms of Boolean logic.

Boolean connectors - words like AND, OR and NOT - are the words that glue our keywords together into a search that the database understands. 

Want to learn more about Boolean searching? Check out this great video from Pam Posz at Sacramento City College:

You can combine keywords using AND, OR, NOT:

AND gets more specific results because all the keywords must be on in the same article. Some databases automatically insert AND between words, but it doesn't hurt for you to put it there. 

OR allows you to search for synonyms or word variations. Often there are other words that mean the same as your keyword. OR allows you to search for these variations all at one time. Adding OR into a search will cause you to find more results because OR specifies that either word appear in the article. 


NOT eliminates unwanted words. This limits the number of irrelevant articles your search retrieves. 


From: Pierce College Library:

Other Techniques

Try the following techniques to make your searches even better.

Phrase Searches

Often keywords are more than one word. Databases let you put quotation marks around these so that only results with the exact phrase are listed.

"rap music"

"cell phone"


Shortening a keyword to its basic root and adding a special character (usually an asterisk "*" or "?") at the end will tell the computer to search for variations on the word.

Searching for politic* will find:


Note: Check the database's help screens to see which truncation symbol it recognizes.


Combines concepts and techniques. The database will search for what's grouped or nested inside the parentheses first.

("rap music" OR "hip hop") AND censorship]

From: Pierce College Library:

Information Cycle

Watch the video The Information Cycle from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Libraries

Databases and Google

Keywords + Connectors = Search

To get the best results in an article database, you need to enter two things into a search screen: keywords - which are described in the keywords box on the left side of this page - and Boolean operators, or connectors, between each keyword.

Boolean connectors are words like AND, OR, and NOT. These words specify the relationships between your words

5 minute video that compares web versus library databases. Examines basic features of library databases and provides essential context for your controlling your search results. Produced by North Carolina State University Libraries [CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike].

How to Search the Web


Limiting Your Search