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Information Literacy Toolkit: Search Strategies: AND, OR, or NOT

Boolean operators are used to connect and define the relationship between your search terms and phrases. The three Boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT. 

AND is used when you want two or more search terms to appear in the results. 

i.e. girls AND "eating disorders" ; pollution AND "greenhouse gases" ; teens AND alcohol

OR is used when you have an alternative term that is interchangeable with another. In this scenario, you are okay with either term appearing in the results, or both.

i.e. girls OR "young women" OR females AND "eating disorders" ; pollution OR "climate change" AND "greenhouse gases" ; teens OR teenagers AND alcohol OR drinking

NOT is used when you continue to get search results containing irrelevant information, that you would like to exclude. 

i.e. If you are doing a search for information on Jamaica the country and you keep getting results for Jamaica, Queens, you might change your search string to: Jamaica NOT "Queens" AND culture 

Sample search strings using Boolean Operators:

ex. 1 

Topic question: Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change?

Keywords: "greenhouse gases" ; "climate change" ; "global warming" ; pollution 

Search strings:

"greenhouse gases" AND "climate change"

"greenhouse gases" OR pollution AND "climate change" OR "global warming"

ex. 2 

Topic question: Do college students who listen to classical music while they study have better test scores?

Keywords: "college students"; "test scores" ; studying ; "classical music"

Search strings:

"college students" AND "test scores" AND studying 

"test scores" AND "classical music"

Created by Oregon School Library Information System.