Improve your searches!

Here's a quick guide to some of the more useful search modifiers used in many of our library databases. Better searches and more useful results are achieved by successfully using the modifiers below.

This guide is available in PDF format here.

Common search modifiers and examples

AND
AND ASSOCIATES search terms

Image capturing a search for dogs and cats. AND dictates results must include both of these terms. So a source not mentioning the term dogs will not be in the search results

OR
OR finds MORE

Image capturing a search for dogs OR cats. OR dictates results can include either or both of these terms. So a source not mentioning the term dogs will be in the search results.

NOT
NOT DROPS

Image capturing a search for dogs NOT cats. NOT dictates results must not include the term following the NOT. So a source mentioning the term cats will not be in the search results


Truncation
Truncation works from the root of a word
(doesn’t work in Google Scholar)

Image capturing a search for cat-asterisk. Truncation commonly uses an asterisk to allow for any string of characters to complete the root of a term. In this example, cat would be returned as would catwoman and cat-scan

Phrase searching
Use quotes to tie words together

Image capturing a search for CAT scan in quotes. Quotes are used to tie terms together into a phrase. Otherwise a database search will break the terms apart yielding often unwanted results

Parentheses
Parentheses bring order to your awesome search

Image capturing a search with parenthesis around a portion of the search. Parenthesis are used to isolate parts of more complex search strategies. In this example, bed OR kennel are in parenthesis and dog AND are outside, meaning dog must be included in the results as do either bed or kennel

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Please contact us at libid@umn.edu with questions.

Last Updated: Feb 10, 2020 1:34 PM