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Research Basics: Search Strategies

Search Strings

To retrieve the most relevant search results, you will need to construct a search string

A search string is a combination of keywords, truncation symbols, and boolean operators you enter into the search box of a library database or search engine.

Tip: Truncate!

Are you finding too much or not enough information? Try using boolean operators and truncation symbols, or use alternative, narrower, or broader keywords to vary your results.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, that are used to combine or exclude words in a search string for more focused results.


  • business AND ethics
  • cooking AND Spain

Results contain ALL of the search terms.


  • hotels OR motels
  • www OR world wide web
  • theater OR theatre

Results contain ANY of the search terms, but not necessarily all of them.


  • java NOT coffee
  • Clinton NOT Bill

Excludes results containing the second search term.


Truncation or wildcard symbols allow you to look for variations of words. They often broaden your search results.

For example, searching on sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc. 

Note: The truncation symbol varies by database. Consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages for details.