A Quick Guide to Using Boolean: Top 5 Tricks
Improve your search results with Boolean search operators.
Introduction to Boolean
First off, what the heck is Boolean you may be asking? Boolean search operators are simple terms like AND, OR and NOT or modifiers like quotation marks “”, parentheses () or an asterix*. You use these in conjunction with your search terms to help narrow down your search.
Most search engines, databases and of course library catalogues allow you to use these when looking for books or articles.
Top Tip 1: AND
This makes sure that your search results include all the words you need.
e.g. Zombies AND Aliens
It will remove any results that do not contain all these terms.
Top Tip 2: NOT
This is a great option for editing out results when searching.
e.g. Apocalypse AND Zombies NOT Aliens
Top Tip 3: Quotation marks “”
Quotation marks are one of my favourite search modifiers. Use them to make sure you have an exact match returned. This can be handy for a book or article title if you know exactly what you are looking for.
e.g. “Brave new world”
Top Tip 4: Asterix *
This little “star” is better known as a wildcard and is a pro tip for those who struggle with spelling or want to find results with a variation of the keyword.
e.g. If you use it with say the word Develop* it will return results including “development,” “developer,” and “developing.”
Top Tip 5: Parentheses ()
This is where you can start to get fancy! Use parentheses to group together keywords and control the order they will be searched for.
e.g. (Alien OR Zombie) AND Apocalypse
Now there is another Boolean operator OR (seen above helping out the zombie and alien search) which didn’t make the top 5 but is definitely top 6. Use OR to allow results using multiple keywords.
e.g. (Aliens OR Zombies OR Kittens) AND Apocalypse.
The best thing about Boolean is it allows you to combine all these operators to make highly specific searches saving you time and effort trawling through pages of results.
e.g. (Aliens OR Zombies) AND Apocalypse AND “Tuesday Morning” Start*
Our LibrarySearch Library catalogue helps you to get started with this. Simply click on “Advanced Search” and you will see options to use Boolean operators.
So why not give them a go today!
By Juliet Kinsey
Read more study tips in our article on preparing for exams.