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Searching Tips and Tricks

Boolean logic


By default, all terms in many search boxes are combined with AND: teacher education will return results that contain both terms.


Use OR to expand your search: "teacher education" OR "teacher training" will return results that contain either the first term, the second term, or both.


Use NOT to exclude terms: animal NOT dog will return results that do not include the term dog.

For more information about how Boolean logic works, see the "Boolean Logic" link in the left sidebar of this guide.


  • '?' will match any one character 
    • Example: 'wom?n' will find 'woman' and 'women'
  • '*' will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word.
    • Example: 'ch*ter' will find 'charter', 'character', and 'chapter'
    • Example: 'temp*' will find 'temptation', 'temple', and 'temporary'

Note: databases use difference symbols for wildcards. Always consult the database's help page.

Keyword Searching

Most Information searches start with keywords. Keywords allow you to search with natural language, describing a topic in words that you would actually use.

When choosing keywords you should choose words that are most likely to appear in an article of book that would relate to your topic. You should avoid words that are too common and likely to appear in multiple topics.

Choosing Keywords:

If you are having trouble choosing keywords, it can help to create a Research Plan:

Phrase Searching:

When you are using a term that is made up of more than one word, it may be necessary to enter the term as a phrase.  The most common way of doing this is to surround the term with quotation marks.  For example: "fossil fuel." This tells the catalog, database, or search engine that you are only interested in articles where these words appear together and in the correct order. Some databases allow advanced boolean searching which will allow more dynamic ways of searching for phrases.

Google Search Tips

The Site Search

  • To search within a single site, type site: + (the website you want to search) + (your search terms).
    • example: solar energy

The Domain Search

  • Great for searching only government or foreign resources. Type: domain: + (the domain you want to search) + (your search terms)
    • example: renewable resources

Limiting your search

  • After conducting a search, click on the tabs below the search bar to filter your search by content (e.g. shopping, maps, news, images, etc). Click "more" for additional content.
  • "Settings" allows you to change the language Google uses, to go to an Advanced Search screen, view your search history, and get search help. 
  • "Tools" allows you to limit by time . At the bottom of the page, Google provides and "Advanced Search" which has additional utilities.