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Library Search Guide: Narrow Searches



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Narrow Search Results

Once you have mastered both basic and advanced searching, you may want to narrow your search with various characters and operators. 


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Narrow Search Results

You can refine your search with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and wildcard characters (?, *). Search queries can become complicated, but with a little practice you will be able to master refining your search. This page is an introduction to refining searches. For a more detailed tutorial on using Boolean operators and developing a search strategy, see our guide on How to Search.

Click on the button below to view an advanced search query, created by librarians at the University of Alberta, to search for Indigenous peoples of Manitoba for use with the OVID database


Search for Phrases

To search for a phrase, type quotation marks around the phrase. You can combine both words and phrases in your search. If you do not put quotation marks around the phrase, the search will find items that contain the individual words in the phrase, regardless of order.

Example: "global warming"

Include Words or Phrases

You can search for items that contain at least one of the words or phrases you type in the Search box.  You can expand your search this way to include words that are similar to each other. Type the command OR between the words or phrases. The command OR must be spelled in capital letters. If you search for words or phrases without using OR, the search assumes that you are searching for all the specified words or phrases.

Example: Search all items containing "Irish" or "Celtic".  This search will also find items containing both words together.

Exclude Words or Phrases

You can exclude items that contain specific words or phrases. Type the command NOT before the word or phrase you wish to exclude. The command NOT must be spelled in capital letters. If you search for words or phrases without NOT, the search assumes that you are searching for all the specified words or phrases. 

Example: Search for items with the word Celtic and exclude any of these items with the word Irish:

Wildcard Characters

Wildcard characters (?, *) allow you to search for variations in spelling.

You can include the following wildcard characters in your searches:

?Enter a question mark to perform a single character wildcard search. For example, type wom?n to search for items that contain the words woman or women.

Enter an asterisk to perform a multiple character wildcard search, called truncation. For example, type cultur* to search for items that contain words such as culture, cultural, and culturally.

Group Keywords

You can use parentheses to group keywords within your search. Parentheses allow you to combine the numerous search tips above.

Example: Search for "Shakespeare" and the keywords "tragedy" or "sonnet".

Need more help? Contact your Liaison Librarian

Advanced searching can be difficult to master! If you have more questions about advanced searching, contact your liaison librarian. Find your subject area and corresponding librarian here. Alternatively, use our Ask Us service to be connected to library staff.

Narrowing Search Results