Created by Nicole Potdevin, Acting Director of Public Services, Monninger Center for Learning and Research, Florham Campus.
The basic searching techniques below apply to most databases to which the library subscribes. For a more in depth overview of a particular database, try one of our database guides.
Using AND between KEY TERMS can narrow your SEARCH from thousands of off topic results to a much smaller number of RELEVANT results. A search using AND between KEY TERMS will only return results that include both KEY TERMS. If a record only has one of the KEY TERMS it will not be in your results.
To search using AND simply type AND between your KEY TERMS.
See the example below:
Using OR between KEY TERMS can broaden your SEARCH from a small number of results to a larger number of results. A search using OR between KEY TERMS will return results that include any of the KEY TERMS.
To search using OR simply type OR between your KEY TERMS.
See the example below:
A search for TEENAGERS AND ALCOHOL USE returned 3,716 results
A search for ADOLESCENTS AND ALCOHOL USE returned 5,478 results
A search for (TEENAGERS OR ADOLESCENT) AND ALCOHOL USE returned 5,988 results. This search will include all results which deal either with teenagers or adolescents and alcohol use.
Many library databases allow you to use truncation to help with your search. Truncation allows you to use symbols (usually *, $, or #) to replace a letter or letters in a word. This can be useful when searching for multiple variations of a word or all words which start with the same root. Truncation will broaden your search results.
You can search for the terms sociology, sociological, sociologist, socioeconomic, etc... using socio*. This will return results for any term starting with the root word "socio".
Instead of this:
Truncation can also be helpful when trying to find a term in both its singular and plural form. i.e. teen* will search for teen, teens, teenage, teenager, and teenagers.
How Not to Use Truncation
This can be a very useful strategy when searching, however you need to consider what stem or root word to use. If you used soc* for instance, not only would you get the terms you're looking for but you would also return many more results than you intended, such as social, socialism, society, sock, socket, soccer, etc...