Keyword Searching

Changes to Library services during the COVID-19 service disruption.

Database searching is NOT like Google!  Most do not support natural language searching.  You have to be precise in the words that you select.

Join concepts together using AND and OR.

Use AND when the concepts are not related such as family AND society. This narrows the search as both of those words must be in the information that is being returned.

Use OR when the concepts are similar, and it does not matter which word is found in the information that is being returned.  For instance, gender OR male OR female. This broadens the search.

Use truncation when you want to allow for several spellings or variations on a word. For instance, fem* can stand for female OR feminine OR feminist ...

Tip: If you wish to replace exactly 1 letter, use ? (question mark) rather than * (asterisk). Example: wom?n

Most complex search strings are evaluated left to right.  To make sure that you are grouping concepts together correctly, use parentheses.  For instance, Canad* AND (gender OR female OR male) AND work

Key phrases are groups of words that always appear together.  Although some databases will evaluate them as one unit, not all do (for instance, the catalogue will perform an AND keyword search).  There is a difference between results where the words occur together in a record and where the words appear in an unspecified location throughout the record: it is much more likely that your results will be about your topic if they appear together as a phrase.

Tip:   To be sure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks.  For instance: "work-life balance".

Want more information and options?  Check out the help pages in the databases and in the catalogue!

Content last reviewed: June 25, 2018