Getting relevant results: Boolean operators

It’s impossible to get the most out of your search results without combining keywords, Boolean Operators and search tips – make sure to read all three blog posts!

Many databases require that you combine your keywords using Boolean operators (i.e. “AND” and “OR”) rather than just typing random words in like Google.

For this post, we’ll use the same example from the keywords blog post: I need to find information on the benefits of alternative treatments for type two diabetes (i.e. other than insulin). One of this alternative treatments is managing diabetes with your diet.

We use OR to combine the synonyms that we came up with (because we don’t care which word appears in the text). OR also broadens your search: use different OR words if you aren’t getting enough search results.

  • diabetes mellitus OR type two diabetes
  • diet OR nutrition therapy

We use AND to combine the different concepts from our topic. AND also narrows your search: use a few AND words if you’re getting too many results.

  • diabetes AND diet
  • diabetes mellitus AND nutrition therapy

Here’s an example of “and” using the library catalogue:

Boolean Operators 1

You can combine Boolean Operators too:

(diabetes mellitus OR type two diabetes) AND (diet OR nutrition therapy)

Boolean Operators 1

Knowing how Boolean Operators work is a helpful skill, whether you’re searching in academic databases, on government websites, or in the catalogue. Even Google uses them without you even knowing it!



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