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Sociology: General Search Tips

This guide provides descriptions of commonly used library resources for sociological research.

Using Boolean Operators

Getting Started With Boolean

Using Boolean operators --AND, OR, NOT-- is a great way to further refine your searches.

Boolean Operator

Search Example

Retrieves

AND

  • A good way to limit/refine your search.
  • Decreases your results.
rivers AND salinity

Retrieves articles that contain both the words river and salinity.

OR

  • A good way to expand your search
  • Useful if you have synonyms that you would like to search for.
  • Increases your results.

 

fruit OR vegetables

 

Returns articles that contain either the word fruits or vegetables.

Not

  • A good way to limit your search
  • Allows you to exclude terms from your search results
fruit NOT apples
Returns articles that contain the word fruits but do not contain the word apples.

Advanced Boolean: Putting It All Together

In the above examples, we showed the use of boolean operators with 2 search terms; however, you can join any number of terms with boolean operators.

Parentheses! In the examples below, you'll notice that we use parentheses to group search terms and operators.  The parentheses tell the search engine how to read your search statement.  Remember when you learned about order of operations in math and using parentheses? Same concept.

Search Example

Retrieves

Europe AND dairy products AND export Articles that contain all of the following words: dairy products, Europe, and export.
canoeing AND (kayaking  OR sculling) Articles that contain the both of the words canoeing and sculling; also brings back articles that contain both of the words canoeing and kayaking.
South America AND (puma OR panther) NOT Brazil Articles that contain the terms South America and Puma; articles that contain the terms South America and Panther.  Will not bring back articles with the term Brazil.

Advanced Searching Techniques

Most databases support these techniques, but sometimes the syntax or symbol used varies.  If in doubt, check the Help section of the database.

Search Technique

Symbol

Example

Retrieves

Phrase Searching

Useful when you have a string of words that must appear next to each other in your search statement. 

 

Most search engines use quotation marks around phrases.   “mad cow disease”
Articles where the exact phrase "mad cow disease" is present.

Truncation

Allows you to search for variant endings of a word. Remember that when you search, the database is looking for an exact match for your term so using truncation can increase the flexibility of your search.


 

Most databases use the asterisk however, some use a different symbol. Most notably, LexisNexis uses the exclamation point. parent* Articles with any of the following words: parent, parents, parenting, parental

Wildcards

Allows you to search for different variants of a word where the difference may be within the word as opposed to at the end of the word. This technique is most useful when searching for plurals that do not use an "s" (ex. woman vs. women) or when searching for articles in which there may be slightly different British spelling (ex. color vs. colour)

 

Some databases use the asterisk; others use the question mark. Check the help section to determine which symbol is use. wom*n Articles that contain either the word woman or women.