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Search: Foundations

Foundational Search Skills

Know these search skills to set yourself up for success finding the resources you need


  1. Boolean Operator: AND
  2. Boolean Operator: OR
  3. Nested searching: (.....) parentheses

Required Skills

1. Boolean Operator: AND

The Boolean Operator AND is used to ensure that each different concept is included in search results


Why and How use Boolean Operator AND?
  1. Use AND between different concepts 
  2. It narrows the number of search results


2. Boolean Operator: OR

The Boolean Operator OR is used to find any of your search terms in search results


Why and How use Boolean Operator OR?
  1. Use OR between similar concepts 
  2. It broadens the number of search results


3. Nested searching: Parentheses

(___ OR ___) AND (___ OR ___ OR ___)

Use parentheses to combine your search terms correctly


Why use parentheses?

You must use parentheses when combining multiple search terms using Boolean Operators because:

  • Databases process searches from left to right by default

  • Parentheses ensure your search terms are correctly combined. Search terms within parentheses are processed first. Then these search terms are combined with search terms outside the parentheses

How to use parentheses?
  1. STEP 1: Combine similar terms used for same concept using OR within parentheses 
  2. STEP 2: Combine different concepts using AND between different sets of parentheses

ABOVE: Two Venn Diagrams demonstrating correct and incorrect parentheses use

Left Venn Diagram: Incorrect search due to no parentheses around similar search terms combined with OR

Right Venn Diagram: Correct search due to parentheses around similar search terms combined with OR