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Information Literacy : Online Search Tips

A Guide to Information Literacy: What is it? Where can I go to get answers about it? Why does it matter?

Boolean Search Operators

Proximity Operators

Use proximity operators to narrow your search results.  Proximity operators are placed between keywords.  They require the keywords to be within (W) or near (N) a specified number of words from each other.
Proximity = W for within; N for near
tax W8 reform
•W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order in which you entered them.
(baseball or football) (N5) (artificial intelligence)
•N5 finds the words if they are within five words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.

Search Limiters

To further improve your search results, consider 
  • adding additional required keywords
  • search for an exact match by putting the term or phrase in quotes
  • limiting by full text, peer reviewed, date published, language, etc.
  • searching additional databases
  • looking at the database's help pages
  • asking a librarian for help

Limiters will vary from database to database.


Truncation and Wildcard Symbols

Use truncation and wildcard symbols to broaden your search results. Truncation allows you to find various word endings and spellings of a root word.  Truncation and wildcard symbols may vary from database to database (*, #, ?, !).
•Truncation = *
immigrat* (immigrate, immigrating, immigration, etc.)
•Wildcard = #, ?
wom#n (woman, women)
colo#r (color, colour)
ne?t (neat, nest, next - - but not net)

Nesting with Parentheses

Use parentheses to narrow or expand your search results.  First, keywords and operators within parentheses are processed. Next, keywords and operators outside parentheses are processed.

* (baseball or football) AND (artificial intelligence)


Per the Z39.50 standard, Boolean operators AND and NOT are processed before OR if parentheses are not used.

* Baseball OR football AND artificial intelligence will be processed as baseball OR (football AND artificial intelligence).