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NOTE: These tips will work with most search engines in their basic search option.
  • Use the plus (+) and minus (-) signs in front of words to force their inclusion and/or exclusion in searches.   (You may also use AND or NOT, in caps, on many sites)
    EXAMPLE:   +anorexia -bulimia
    (NO space between the sign and the keyword)


  • Use double quotation marks (" ") around phrases to ensure they are searched exactly as is, with the words side by side in the same order.
    EXAMPLE:   "Bye bye Miss American Pie"
    (Do NOT put quotation marks around a single word.)


  • Put your most important keywords first in the string.
    EXAMPLE:   +hybrid electric gas vehicle


  • Type keywords and phrases in lower case to find both lower and upper case versions. Typing capital letters will usually return only an exact match.
    EXAMPLE:   president retrieves both president and President


  • Use truncation and wildcards (e.g., *) to look for variations in spelling and word form.
    EXAMPLE:    librar* returns library, libraries, librarian, etc.


  • Combine phrases with keywords, using the double quotes and the plus (+) and/or minus (-) signs.
    EXAMPLE:   +"lung cancer" +bronchitis -smoking
    (In this case, if you use a keyword with a +sign, you must put the +sign in front of the phrase as well. When searching for a phrase alone, the +sign is not necessary.)


  • When searching a document for your keyword(s), use the "find" command on that page.


  • Know the default settings your search engine uses (OR or AND). This will have an effect on how you configure your search statement because, if you don't use any signs (+, - " "), the engine will default to its own settings.


  • Know whether or not the search engine you are using maintains a stop word list.  If it does, don't use known stop words in your search statement. Also, consider trying your search on another engine that does not recognize stop words.


Quick Tips for Boolean Searches

  • In Boolean searches, always enclose OR statements in parentheses.
    EXAMPLE:   "financial aid" AND (college OR university)


  • Always use CAPS when typing Boolean operators in your search statements. Most engines require that the operators (AND, OR, AND NOT/NOT) be capitalized. Other engines will accept either CAPS or lower case, so you're on safe ground if you stick to CAPS.
    EXAMPLE:   "eating disorder" AND (bulimia OR anorexia)


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