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Identifying key concepts and what other words or phrases describe that concept you will get more meaningful results. Here is an example of how you can break down a question into concepts and their related phrases.
How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT)
AND - Finds all the words OR - Finds either of the words NOT - Excludes a word from search
Using Quotes to Narrow your Search
One thing students struggle with is finding too much irrelevant information in the databases. This is because of one very specific problem: computers are literal. They will search for your words wherever they can, which means you might get a result that uses your words in a different context.
One way you can help them understand you is to use quotation marks in your search to ensure the database or search engine looks for those words together as a phrase. Be on the lookout for words that provide a specific meaning the word it comes before to after.
This table provides examples of words with multiple contexts and how you can use that information to change your search.
Words with Multiple Contexts
Words that Describe Previous Word
Type in search box, In quotes
high, elementary, charter
Olympic, video, board
cat, Woods, king, Detroit
How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Modifiers "", *, ( )
" " - Searches as an exact phrase * - Truncates a term to search for varied endings ( ) - Tells the database to do this part first