To systematically search most of our databases, including the search box on the library's homepage, you need to create what is called a search statement.

A search statement is made up of keywords combined using Boolean Operators, things like AND OR and NOT. For example, to learn about the impact of smartphones on society you might build your search statement as follows.

AND means all key words or concepts must be found in your list of results. So, in this case smartphone AND society.

OR will find any keyword or concept. This is helpful for listing synonyms: different words that refer to the same idea. For example, searching for smart phone OR mobile phone OR cell phone will find at least one of these words or phrases in your list of results. This is helpful to anticipate how different authors may use different words to refer to the same idea. In Canada we typically say smartphone, but authors in the U.K. may use the phrase mobile phone instead.

You'll also notice that I've capitalized the AND and OR. Not only does this make the operators stand out on screen but some databases require that they be capitalized in order to function as an operator.

Quote marks will find two or more words always together.

Truncation, or the asterisk, captures any combination of letters to follow, and so in this case societ with an asterisk is going to find the word society, societies, societal and so forth.

Brackets isolate a concept and so in this case society or culture.

Putting them all together based on our keywords of smartphone and society, we might begin searching with the following search statement.

In brackets somewhere in our list of results we want to find reference to either smartphone mobile phone OR cell phone, along with reference to society OR culture.

The reason I didn’t include the NOT operator is because you probably won’t use it too often, and you need to use it carefully just in case you exclude some results that may actually be of interest.

Using search statements is a process, so try adding keywords and see how the results look, take keywords away, search again, and over time you will end up with a more focused list of results.

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