TRUMAN STATE UNIVERSITY Pickler Memorial Library Truman State University

Basics of Keyword Searching

1.  Operators AND, OR, NOT  combine terms using Boolean logic.


Connects terms to retrieve every record in which either, both, or any one of the words appear, regardless of their position in the records. OR is usually used to combine like concepts, synonymous terms, or variant spellings. OR broadens the search.


 college students or undergraduates  

 communication or speech


Connects terms to retrieve every record in which all of the specified words appear, regardless of their position in the records.  AND is usually used to combine unlike concepts.  AND narrows the search.

television and advertising     

children and handicapped and language


Excludes any words following NOT in the search  statements and retrieves records in which only the first term appears.  The NOT operator should be used with caution.

minorities not hispanics

Truman’s Library Catalog uses AND NOT.                                                                                 

                    minorities and not hispanics                      


2.  Phrase searching    

When you type in a phrase, different things can happen:
In Truman’s Library Catalog  if you enter television broadcasting  the system will look for the words as a phrase in the title, and then  AND the words television and broadcasting.

To search only for a phrase, put it in quotes: "television broadcasting"

3.  Truncation (*) enables you to search for portions of words.

                   communicat*  Retrieves communication, communicating, etc.

                  Note:  Truncation symbol varies with the database.

4.  Nesting enables you to make complex searches. 

Use parentheses to indicate which terms should be searched together.

                   (media or television or journalism) and elections


(Venn diagrams from Duke University Libraries:  Used with permission.)

Encouraging Discovery