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Library Research DIY

Discover how to start your academic research with this guided tutorial.

In addition to using the best keywords, you can increase the effectiveness of your search by using:

  1. Boolean operators
  2. Phrase searching
  3. Truncation

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators, AND, OR, and NOT, are used to combine your keywords. 

And Venn Diagram with an arrow pointing to the area where the two circles overlapAND is used to connect different concepts: "social media" AND "protest movement".

Using AND to connect keywords will decrease your search result numbers, or narrow your search, because the database is searching for sources that contain all of the keywords connected by AND.

OR Venn Diagram with arrows pointed to both circlesOR is used to connect similar concepts: "social media" OR "social networking site" OR Facebook

Using OR to connect similar words will increase your search result numbers, or broaden your search, because the database is searching for sources that contain at least one of the keywords connected by OR.

Not Venn Diagram with an arrow pointing to just one circleNOT will remove any search results that contain a particular keyword: "social media" NOT Pinterest

Using NOT will decrease the number of search results, or narrow our search, because the database will exclude resources with the specified keyword(s) from the results list. 

Phrase Searching

quotation marksEnclose your keywords in quotation marks to search for an exact phrase:

  • "social media"
  • "supermassive black hole"


asteriskTruncation allows you to account for words with variations.

The asterisk(*) is commonly used to truncate a keyword. Place the * where you would like to account for variation: 

  • educat* will retrieve: educate, educated, educating, educator, and education
  • *caution will retrieve caution, precaution
  • behavi*r will retrieve behavior, behaviour 
Click Next to learn more about applying these strategies when searching library databases.