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How to Search the Library and Databases

Learn how to search effectively in library catalogs and databases

Search tips

Use a phrase search when looking for a particular organization or a phrase that you think would appear in a relevant website or database.

In most search engines you can perform a phrase search by placing quotation marks (") around your phrase.

For example:

"American Heart Association"
"gardening tips"

Include quotation marks around two or more words you wish to search as an exact or unified phrase. For example, placing quotation marks around the words that make up the book title“Catcher in the Rye” will search for these four words as a unified phrase, including the stop words “in” and “the."

Note: Not all databases respond to phrase searching.

Boolean searching involves the combination of your search terms with "operators" such as AND, OR, NOT.

When you combine search terms with the AND operator, you will retrieve only results that include both of your terms.

When you combine search terms with the OR operator, you will retrieve only results  that have either one or the other term, but not necessary both terms.

Using the NOT operator, you will exclude results with that term.


Some databases have built-in drop down menus to add boolean operators:



Truncation allows you to retrieve results containing variations of a search term.

To conduct a truncated search enter the stem of a term followed by anasterisk (*).

For example, entering edu* would yield results including the terms educate, education, educator, and educational, along with other variations.