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Intro to Library Databases

This handy guide will introduce you to databases and how to use them effectively.

Creating a Search String

Boolean operators are conjunction words used to navigate databases. They connect search terms to find the sources you need -- or omit the ones you don't need!

When you search databases, you do not enter full sentences. You use boolean operators to connect your searched words!

The visual below demonstrates some examples that use these boolean operators:


For best results enclose 'OR' statements in parentheses.  

("self-driving cars" or "autonomous vehicles") AND safety


More Boolean Examples:

If you want information about social media usage and depression among teenagers, try:

"social media" AND depression AND (teenagers OR adolescents)


If you want information about the effects of automation on employment, try:

automation AND (employment OR jobs)


If you want information about the soil pollution in Africa, try:

"Soil pollution" AND Africa NOT Asia NOT Europe NOT (America OR Americas)


Quotation marks are also commonly used when searching databases. Place quotation marks around phrases to search sources for a specific term that contains more than one word. This is important to remember, because if you do not do this you will find a plethora of sources that contain the individual words from your search term, but not the term itself



"Civil War" will provide you with sources that contain the specific term, "Civil War."

Civil War, in contrast, will provide you with sources that contain "Civil War," but will also show you everything that also has "civil" and "war" in its work.


Truncation (symbolized with *, an asterisk) is used to find search terms that may have the same root word, but different endings.



immuni* = immunity, immunization, immunizations

hum* = human, hummus, humor

teen* = teen, teens, teenager, teenage

technolog* = technology, technologies, technological

Other Tips and Tricks:

  • Check for hyphenation and spacing in words ("peer review" vs peer-review, rollerblading vs "roller blading")
  • Try synonyms for your search terms if you aren't finding enough (Cats or dogs not getting you anywhere? Try feline or canine)
  • Be aware of abbreviations and numerals (20th century vs "twentieth century", "U.S.A" vs USA)


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