This tutorial will show you the basics of using AND, OR, and NOT statements—called Boolean operators—while searching to help find what you’re looking for.
Using the database PsycINFO to demonstrate, but keep in mind that you can use these techniques in virtually any of our scholarly journal databases. You may encounter slight differences in how the rules are applied, but the fundamental basics are the same.
To begin, let’s navigate to PsycINFO by starting from the UM libraries homepage. Click on Databases A-Z. In the right-hand search box, type in “PsycINFO”…click on the first result. You will be directed to the PsycINFO homepage. If you’re off campus, you will be asked to login with your UM credentials.
Let’s say you are looking for literature related to the self-esteem of adolescents. We can use an AND statement to connect the main ideas of our search – self esteem and adolescents - so that the database will only return articles that contain these two terms.
To do this, simply type in “self-esteem AND adolescents” into the search box. Note that we’ve put the word “and” in capitals. The rules for using capitals may change depending on what database you’re using, but it is good practice to use capitals to keep things organized.
AND statements will tighten your search results, making the pool of articles smaller. In this case, we have about 8400 results. Were we to use only “self-esteem” or “adolescents” we would likely get hundreds of thousands of results, so this is a good start.
While AND narrows our search, we can use another operator – OR – to widen it.
Let’s say we wanted to introduce another term into our search, “self-concept.” This term has a slightly more specific meaning, but it is still related. By typing in “self-concept OR self-esteem”, we’re going to get all articles that mention these two terms – over 88, 000. This is an extremely broad search, and not very helpful right now, but we’ll return to this operator in a moment.
The final operator – NOT– can be used to eliminate terms that we do not want to turn up in our search results.
Using the same example, we can enter something like “self-concept NOT self-esteem”, to get all of the articles that mention self-concept without mentioning self-esteem. Take note that this is a narrower search than only entering “self-concept”, because it deliberately excludes any mention of “self-esteem.”
The three operators can be helpful on their own, but are most effective when used together. You can combine AND, OR and NOT to build very specific searches.
So let’s say that we wanted to look at something more specific – relationships between substance abuse and the self-concept of young adults.
We’ll begin by entering the first piece: “(self-concept NOT self-esteem)” in parentheses. The parentheses are necessary to keep the concepts we’re trying to connect separate from one another. This process is called nesting – it’s similar to a math formula.
Now let’s add the next component, which is the population we’re looking at – young adults. By adding "AND (adolescents)", in parentheses. We’ve constructed a search that will find all of the articles that discuss the self-concept of adolescents without mentioning self-esteem.
There is still one component left to add, however. At the end, we’ll place a final AND statement, “AND (substance abuse OR drug abuse),” in parentheses, to provide additional context for our search.
We get 176 results. Plenty of options, but not overwhelming.
This was a very simple example, and there are lots of other techniques you can use to build complex searches. Check out part two of this tutorial, Searching: Using Symbols & Quotations, or make an appointment with a librarian to learn more.
This tutorial will show you how to use wildcard symbols and quotation marks to improve your search results. For this tutorial, we will be using UML’s One Stop Search, but keep in mind you can use these techniques in any database you come across.
First, we’ll deal with wildcards. A wildcard is a special character used in a database to account for prefixes, suffixes, or alternative spellings.
For example, the word “behaviour” has both British and American spellings, each equally represented in academic literature. We may also want to capture other variations, such as “behavioral” or “behaviors.” We can use a wildcard to make sure we capture all of these arrangements at once.
To use a wildcard, substitute the part of the word that differs with the wildcard – in this case, the wild card is an asterisk.
In our example, we’ve typed “behavi*” and replaced the end of the word with an asterisk.
This will tell the database to search for everything that begins with “behavi” regardless of what comes after the asterisk. You can place the wildcard in any part of the word you’re searching. The result here is that we get over five-million hits that include all variant spellings of the word.
Note that Google and most online databases will use an asterisk, but you may find that some will use another character.
Now, let’s say you want to search for materials on Behavior Modification, which is a concept in psychology. A simple search of the two words will result in over 73-thousand hits, because the system will show you result for both the word “behavior” and “modification” regardless of how the words are linked. We can use quotation marks to get around this issue. If we place our search in quotation marks instead, "Behavior Modification", the system will only give us results that contain this exact phrase.
As you can see, we have cut the number of results by two-thirds, and these results are all more likely to be relevant to our search.
You can use these searching techniques in combination with others to make your searches more efficient. Check out part one of this video, or make an appointment with a librarian to learn more.
The first step in this process is navigating to the UManitoba Libraries website, at www.umanitoba.ca/libraries
Type in your search terms and click search.
I performed a simple search for “UFO” as an example.
You will notice this area to the left of the search results page, titled “Refine my Results.”
Under this section is where you will narrow your results.
"Content Type" refers to the type of resource you’re looking for, and filters the results by any one of the following options: Newspaper articles, Articles, reviews, books, conference proceedings, dissertations, audio-visual material, etc.
You can also use a "Date Range." The date refers to when the item was published.
You can either change the date range using the sliding bar, manually type in a date range in the two empty boxes, or choose a date range provided. Provided date ranges also list how many resources we have in that date range.
You can limit by the "publication language." Most resources we have will be in English, but we do have access to materials written in other languages.
Lastly, directly above the “Refine my Results” area is the “Show Only” option.
Using this feature you can limit the results to only:
Articles in Peer Reviewed Journals
Full Text articles available online
Physical books available in the library
This feature can be very useful if you need peer reviewed articles for a class.
Narrowing your results using the filters on the left is one of the easiest and quickest ways to obtain more relevant search results.
Here are the basics about articles: Articles are in Journals, and Journals are in Databases.
It’s easy to find out if the libraries have access to the article you need using the One Stop Search
If you have the exact title of the item, you can simply type the title into the search box.
If the words in the title are quite common, you can put quotation marks around it to keep the words in the exact order that you want them.
Be careful with quotations though, because even a small typo could result in a failed search.
If you find that you are getting too many results, you can add AND (in capital letters) with the author’s name to the search to narrow it down.
Do the search, and when you find the item you want, click on the “Get it @ UML” button () to get the link to the full text. You gain access to full text by using your UMNetID and password.
It’s easy to find out if the Libraries have access to the book that you need, using the One Stop Search.
If you have the exact title of the item, you can simply type the title into the search box. If the words in the title are quite common, you can put quotation marks around it to keep the words in the exact order that you want them.
Be careful though, because even a small typo could result in a failed search.
If you find that the title itself is quite common, you can add AND (in capital letters) with the author’s name to the search to narrow it down.
If this is a physical book, use the location and call number in the record to find out where to get the book.
If the book you’re looking for is an online resource, or e-book - do the search, and when you find the item you want, click on the “Get it @ UML” button () to get the link to the full text. You gain access to full text by using your UMNetID and password.