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UC Library Search Help

The UC Library Search help guide.

Search Tips & Tricks

A keyword search may result in either too many or too few results. Here are a few tips and tricks to narrow down or expand your search using Boolean operators, quotation marks, and truncation.

Boolean Operators

OR, AND, and NOT

OR, AND, and NOT are tools you can use to combine different keywords and concepts to create a more effective search. They must be typed in all capital letters. 

OR

OR connects terms with the same or similar meanings. This increases search results. 

For example: teen OR teenager OR adolescent OR young adult 

Searching this combination means that every result will contain at least one of those terms (but does not have to contain all of them - any will do).

 

Venn diagram showing search of ants OR diet

The Venn diagram above illustrates the search results for ants OR diet in yellow.


AND

AND focuses and narrows search results by connecting concepts together. For example, when searching for resources about immigration laws in California, you could search:

immigration AND law AND California

Searching this combination means that every result must contain all three words.

 

Venn diagram of overlap of ants AND diet

The Venn diagram above illustrates the search results for ants AND diet in green.


NOT

NOT removes terms from search results.  For example: when searching for resources on cloning but not of sheep:

cloning NOT sheep

Searching this combination means that every result will have "cloning" but none will contain "sheep."

Be careful when using NOT, as it is easy to remove relevant search results! For example, if we search for cats NOT dogs, we will not see any resources on cats that also happen to mention dogs, even if they are mostly feline-focused. 

 

Venn diagram showing search of ants NOT diet

The Venn diagram above illustrates the search results for ants NOT diet in blue.

Get Specific with Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks around a pair (or group) of words to search it as a phrase. Without the quotes the words will be treated like an AND search. For example:

first generation college student - searches for any result that has all four of those words, not necessarily in that order

"first generation college student" - searches for any result that has all four of those words in that exact order

Expand Results with Truncation

Truncation is a great way to search for similar words at the same time. When you want to search for words that begin with the same series of letters, where any ending would be relevant to what you’re looking for, use the asterisk (*), which is the truncation symbol or wildcard character.  For example:

               immigra* - searches for immigration, immigrant, immigrants, and immigrating

The asterisk can be used only at the end of a word. Be careful about words that begin with the same string of letters but are not related to your topic.  For example:

               polic* - searches for policy and policies but also police and policing

Instead, use only the terms you’d like UC Library Search to look for, such as:

               Policy OR policies