• Tips for using advance searches in databases and web search engines.

  • Key Words

    Are important words and phrases that relate to the topic.

    When searching for information, the computer will only search the terms you provide.  When you enter search terms into a database or search engine the program looks for all the words that match your terms.  The search resluts include only the resources that match.  It is helpful to use synonyms to increase the chances of finding the best results.


  • Truncation

    Cutting off a portion of a word and replacing it with a symbol.  Using this technique in a search eangine or a database allows you to broaden your search by finding words with different endings.

    When you are searching, it is sometimes helpful to find related concepts that are spelled similarly or variant forms of spelling.  Using an asterisk (*) at the end of a group of letters or within a group of letters allows you to retrieve results containing all of the possible spelling variations.






  • Synonym

    is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase.

    teenager         school              vacation

    juvinile           academy           trip

    teen               institution         holiday

    youth             university         adventure


  • Wildcard

    Replacing letters within a word with a symbol that represents possible spelling variations.

    Be careful not to truncate or wildcard too many letters in a word or use a short word.  The results may not be relevant to your search.




  • Boolean Operators

    Words that connect keywords to narrow or broaden a search to include more relevant results.

    AND-The database or search engine will only retrieve those articles or web pages that contain both words.  This will NARROW your search and DECREASE search results.


    OR-The database or search engine will retrieve those articles or web pages that contain at least one of these words.  This will BROADEN your search and INCREASE search results.


    NOT- Type NOT before a keyword to exclude that word from your search.  Use NOT when you are searching for a keyword that may have multiple meanings. (Google uses the minus (-) sign as the same functions as NOT.)



  • Phrase Searching

    Searching for two or more words that are in a patricular order and are adjacent to each other in the resource.

    To look for an exact phrase, type your phrase within quotation marks (").  The results will contain the exact words in the quotation marks.  Many databases will automatically keep the words togehter as a phrase.  Other databases may search with the assumption that there is an "and" between the terms.

  • Nesting

    A search strategy using parentheses or brackets that are used to combine Boolean operators and keep combination searches in order.

    Placing terms in parentheses or brackets indicates separate units.  This tells the computer to search for the words in a certain order.  The terms in the brackets are searched first.

    "peer pressure" AND (teen* or "young adult")-bully*

  • Limiters

    Also known as Filters, this search tool allows you to narrow your results based on certain criteria.

    Each limiter you use will narrow the number of results that you get in your search, so the results are specific to your choices.  Depending on the database or search engine, you will have different options.


    • publication year
    • full text (you normally always want this option)
    • peer reviewed
    • publication format
    • language
    • source type