If your database or search engine does not use subject searches, then you must use a keyword search. What is the difference you might ask?

Subject search only searches a small number of fields in the database: Subject (of course) and sometimes, Title of the Article and the Abstract (which is a summary of the article). On the other hand, a keyword search searches many fields in the database: Subject, Title, Author, Abstract, Magazine Title and sometimes the full-text of the article.

This means you are more likely to find articles or information that have NOTHING to do with your topic.

To help fight information overload, you should use the following Boolean Terms:

AND, OR, NOT, * (wildcard or truncation), Near, " " (quotes)

HINT: All the Boolean terms must be capitalized!


Narrows your search

BOTH search terms have to be somewhere in the article.

Some databases use a plus sign (+) instead of AND; If you do use the plus sign (+) you must place a sign in front of each search term

Example: +Greek +traders


Articles with both search terms in it will appear near or at the top of the list

Broadens your search

Either one or both of the terms must be somewhere in the article


Narrows your search

Words must not be anywhere in the article

Some databases use - sign instead of NOT

Example: Hercules -Disney


Narrows your search

The words must be within 4 - 10 words of each other in the article, depending on the database


" "

Narrows your search

If the terms are phrases such as "skin cancer", "American Revolution" or "King Arthur", they should have quotes around them

These terms MUST appear together in the article

Wildcard Truncation


Broadens your search

This allows you to search for terms that start with the same letters but end differently:

Example child* would find:





Parentheses ()

Can broaden and narrow search

Use parentheses to combine Boolean terms

Like math problems, whatever is in the parentheses is done first.


pets AND (dogs OR cats) will find articles about dogs and/or cats as pets.

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