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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 2f. 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!

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.

Operator Examples Results
AND

business AND ethics

cooking AND Spain

Results contain    
ALL of the search terms.
OR

hotels OR motels

www OR world wide web

theater OR theatre

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

java NOT coffee

Clinton NOT Bill

Excludes results containing
the second search term.

Truncation

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.

Search Strategy Builder


This tool is designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. Cut and paste the search string results into the search box of a library database or search engine.

Concept 1 and Concept 2 and Concept 3
Name your concepts here
Search terms Search terms Search terms
List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words, or "short phrases" in quotes

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

Cut and paste the results above into the search box of a library database or search engine.
 
Developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License.

Google Search Strategies

For more advanced searching tips, visit their Inside Search site.

Search Strategies Examples
Queries are not case sensitive.

Barack Obama and barack obama produce the same results.

Results will typically include each word or punctuation mark included in the query. Some stop words or exceptions apply.

 

Keep queries descriptive, but use as few terms as possible. Avoid natural language.

Use colorado statehood instead of when did colorado first become a state.

Google automatically truncates search terms. To prevent this, use a + sign in front of each term.

A query on child retrives results with "children" and "childcare".

Use double quotations marks (" ") to search terms as an exact phrase.

A query on "Barack Hussein Obama II" will retrieve only those sites that refer to Obama by his full name. Sites that refer to him as simply 'Barack Obama' may be overlooked.

Use the site: feature to limit your results to a specific website or class of websites.

The query cloning site:online.wsj.com will only retrieve articles about cloning from the online version of the Wall Street Journal.
A query on cloning site:.gov will only retrieve results within the government domain.

To allow for either of several words to appear in your results, use the OR operator. The operator must be in all caps.

A query on hotel OR lodging OR inn will retrieve results with any or all of these terms.