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Search Tips & Tricks

How to maximize your search results in library databases and Google!

Search and Ye Shall Find

For the most part, search engines and databases use the same or similar language and vocabulary in their search. However, Google and other major search engines try to be much more conversational in their language than the databases are, which goes back to the days when databases used very specific terms and if you didn't know how to speak "database" you wouldn't be able to find anything. Searching a database for a question will bring back results that include every word being searched, such as "and" or "the," which Google's algorithm knows to ignore, so you must approach searching a database as different than searching Google. Below find a breakdown of the different but similar terms used in most library resources, Google, and Wikipedia, and then further explanation of how to search. See Database Search Help for a list of search help sites for most of our major databases.

 

 

Search Term Equivalents

Term OneSearch & Databases Google
AND

AND
ex: [strawberry AND banana]

OneSearch also accepts
+keyword

ex: [strawberry +banana]

N/A (it's automatically included when 2+ words are listed)

NOT

NOT
ex: [strawberry NOT banana]

OneSearch also accepts
-keyword

ex: [strawberry -banana]

 -keyword

OR

OR

ex: [strawberry OR banana]

OR
Wildcard/
Truncation

Wildcards:
# (single letter)
$ (multiple letters)

ex: [engine#] = engine, engines

Truncation: *

ex: [engine*] =
engine, engineer, engineering, engineered (etc.)

 *
ex: [lemon * muffins] =
lemon blueberry muffins, lemon poppy-seed muffins
Exact phrase

"Exact phrase"

ex: "mechanical engineering"

"Exact phrase"

Other Searching Tips

Within a site: site:website.com

ex: [egypt site:nytimes.com]

Social media search:
@
#

Searching the Internet

The internet is a wild place; here is some useful info to help you search it better.

Let's Get Boolean

"Boolean" search terms (named for George Boole, 19th century English mathematician) refer to the usage of and, not, and or to unite keywords in search strings. The different terms return different results:

A AND B = The narrowest: Results that only include both keywords A and B

A NOT B = Results that include A except where B is also mentioned

A OR B = The broadest: Everything that mentions A and everything that mentions B

Search String Examples

Let's say you're looking for information on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the military and the ethical implications thereof. You have a few keywords here:

  • unmanned aerial vehicle(s)
  • military
  • ethics

You also have a number of synonyms or alternative forms of the words:

  • drone(s)
  • defense
  • ethical

Use asterisks to open up a word to single/plural, and use quotes to get the exact term:

("unmanned aerial vehicle*" OR drone*)
=40,620 results in OneSearch (libraries worldwide; 5,396 in Stevens)

Refine by adding the topic of military, opening that to the use of military or defense:

(("unmanned aerial vehicle*" OR drone) AND (militar* OR defense))
=8,832 results in OneSearch (libraries worldwide; 596 in Stevens)

Include the ethical issues of UAVs in defense:

((("unmanned aerial vehicle*" OR drone) AND (militar* OR defense)) AND ethic*)
=381 results (libraries worldwide; 46 in Stevens)
 

Remember: as in math, the placement of parentheses can change the outcome!