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Library Essentials by Johnnie Gray: Database Searching

Intended as a basic introduction to library services, including searching databases and locating digital content.

General Info


These search strategies work for most databases (as well as Google searches).  Boolean operators are very basic, whereas proximity searching is a little more advanced.  Use these to hone in on exactly what you want. 


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How To

Search Tips (Boolean, Truncation, etc.)


Boolean Operators
Boolean operators allow you to expand or narrow your search as needed.

Combine search terms to narrow (“AND”) or broaden (“OR”) results. Use “NOT” to exclude records from retrieval.

Operator Example Retrieval
And Learning And Teens Both terms (Narrows)
Or Learning Or Teens Either or both terms (Broadens)
Not Learning Not Teens Excludes those with Motivation (Narrows)


Truncation (*)
Truncation will find all forms of a word root. The (*) will replace more than one character. For example, searching “therap*” finds therapy, therapies, therapist, therapists, therapeutic, therapeutically, etc.


Exact phrase ". . ."
The exact phrase operator (double quotes) will find the exact phrase. By bordering your query terms with double quotation marks, you can search for exact matches to whatever is inside the quotation marks.

For example, "early Columbian artifacts" searches for the exact phrase, but not early artifacts, early vessels Columbian artifacts, etc.

Proximity Searching (near characters ~n)
A tilde (~) followed by a number finds search terms in close proximity. This requires the database to yield results only when your search terms appear within a certain number of words of each other.

Increasing the "n" (number) increases the number of documents retrieved, because it increases the maximum number of searchable words that can occur between your search terms.

For example, “perceived stress scale"~1 retrieves "Perceived Stress Scale" OR "Perceived Maternal Stress Scale"; "suicide prevention"~3 retrieves "suicide rates and prevention strategies" OR "reduction and prevention of suicide"


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Director of Media Services/ Head of Interlibrary Loan

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Johnnie Gray
Trible Library, Media Center, 2317D
Trible Library provides links to other websites to aid in research and is not responsible for the content or privacy policy of those sites.