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Writing 10 (Miller): Using Boolean, Phrases, Truncation

College Reading & Composition

Boolean Operators (AND/OR)



AND - narrows searches, used to join dissimilar terms
OR - broadens searches, used to join similar terms


Use OR to broaden your search.

For example, if you search “drug abuse” OR "drug addiction" you will find articles that include either of these terms.

“drug abuse” OR "drug addiction"

Use AND to narrow your search.

For example, if you search "drug abuse" AND "mental illness," you will only find articles that include both terms. 

"drug abuse" AND "mental illness"

You can also use AND and OR together.

For example, the search below will find articles that refer to either the phrase "social media" or Instagram but that also refer to depression.

("drug abuse" OR "drug addiction")
"mental illness"


Search for Phrases with Quotes


" "

To search for specific phrases, enclose them in quotation marks. The database will search for those words together in that order.


“mental disorders”

“mental illness”

“substance abuse”

Find Different Word Endings with the Asterisk



Truncate a word in order to search for different forms of the same word. Many databases use the asterisk * as the truncation symbol.


Add the truncation symbol to the word illness* to search for illness, illnesses, etc.

You do have to be careful with truncation. If you add the truncation symbol to the word minor*, the database will search for minor, minors, minority, minorities, etc.

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Class Activity

Part 3

Look at the words in your columns.

  • Put quotes around any phrases. Phrases are two or more words. Quotes are not needed for single words.
  • Cut off words where truncation might be useful to find different word endings.

Part 4

Now we're going to try to put together a simple search using Boolean operators.


If the tool you're using doesn't have multiple search boxes, you can run a search on one line by placing like items within parentheses. The computer has to know which concepts go together.


("drug abuse" OR "substance abuse") AND "mental illness*"