After selecting a database that is appropriate for your topic or information need, figure out the best search strategy for your chosen database. Always read the database descriptions and view any tutorials provided.
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View two tutorials: 3. Searching effectively using AND, OR, NOT
Summary: Library databases generally handle connecting words AND, OR, NOT in these specific ways:
cats and dogs and birds Result: ALL three of these words must be present in each search result. Using AND has the effect of narrowing search results.
cats or kittens or felines Result: ANY of the three words are present in search results. Using OR has the effect of broadening search results. The best use of OR is whenever there are two or more words with similar meanings and any of these words will work in the search results.
cats not dogs Result: The first word (cats) is present in each search result but the word following NOT (dogs) is eliminated from results, even if the first word (cats) was also present in that result. Use of NOT is tricky. You could eliminate something you want!
(cats or kittens or felines) and (care or feeding) not birds Result: Any of the words inside the first parentheses combined with any of the words inside the second parentheses are in the search results. All results containing the word following NOT (birds) is omitted no matter what other words are present. This technique is called "nesting." It tells the search engine in what order to combine words.
This use of AND, OR, NOT is called Boolean logic, after George Boole, the mathematician who invented it. Most of the library databases (the library catalog, all Ebsco databases, and others) understand the use of AND, OR and NOT to connect keywords and phrases. Some databases behave differently, so check the help pages to see how they work.