Using Search Engines (Such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!) and Navigating Databases: Why Boolean Search Terms Are My Best Friends
July 28, 2013
Have you ever spent hours searching for a specific item or article without ever finding what you needed? I certainly have. I want to tell you about a few magic words that can, in most cases, help you find exactly what you want. These particular words are referred to as Boolean Search Terms. Boolean is pronounced Boo-Lee-uhn, with the ending sounding like the "-lian" in "Lillian."
They are as follows:
Some of you might already be putting together in your heads how these great search words work. For those of you who are still wondering, I will happily explain it to you. Boolean search terms must be typed in all capital letters, doing so tells the search engine that you are using those words to modify your search. The "AND" causes the search to find results that include both of your search words instead of searching for items that may contain only one. An example of how one might search using Boolean search terms would be "pig AND elephant." If you were to go to our NoveList K-8 Plus database and use those search terms, your results would show a number of books written by one of my favorite children’s authors, Mo Willems. This can be helpful if you are searching for a book and don't know the author or title but do know some parts of the story or plot.
There is a surprising amount that you can do with simple search terms; for example, the terms "girl AND moth AND swamp" typed into the search box of the NoveList Plus database will find another favorite book of mine, A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. The "OR" is helpful when you are not absolutely certain, but you know you’re looking for one of two options. "OR" can also be used if you are willing to accept more than one option; for example, if I want knitting or crocheting patterns and will accept either, I can search "pattern AND knit OR crochet" in our Hobbies and Craft database. The "NOT" can be used when I want only certain items to show up in my results. If I want to watch videos that include dance that is not ballet, I would search "dance NOT ballet" in our Dance in Video database.
These magic little words can be used in most databases and search engines in order to help you narrow down your results so that you find what you need. I cannot tell you how many times I have used these search terms to dig up books I read as a kid or as an adult and only remember some of the story’s details. I hope you will try using Boolean Search Terms and find that they are as helpful to you as they have been to me!
Red Bridge Branch