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Search Tips: Home


These "step" pages have been adapted from that of Johnson & Wales University Library (Denver Campus) as well as from the Research & Learning Services Department of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  Stafford Library has received permission to use and adapt these pages.

Search Tips

  • Keep search queries simple and descriptive and use as few terms as possible. Avoid natural language queries as they can limit your results. For example, Use "colorado statehood" instead of "when did colorado first become a state."  See Identifying Keywords.
  • Are you finding too much information or perhaps not finding enough? Use alternative, narrower, or broader keywords to vary your results.  See Refine a Topic.
  • Use double quotations marks ("") to search terms as a phrase and narrow your results.
  • Queries are not case sensitive. For example, George Washington and george washington will retrieve the same results.
  • When looking at search results, take note of any subjects and/or descriptors provided.  If you find a resource that is perfect for your topic, it is likely that the subject headings or descriptors for that resource will lead you to other items that will be good resources to use.
  • Use boolean operators and truncation/wildcard symbols to target your search in powerful ways.

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching is the traditional way to search for information in most online databases and on the Internet. The Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT, are used to create phrases and concepts based on specific rules of search logic.  

Operator Examples Results

business AND ethics
cooking AND Spain

Retrieves records that contain    
ALL of the search terms.

hotels OR motels
www OR world wide web
theater OR theatre

Retrieves records that contain
ANY of the search terms, but
does not necessarily include
all of them.

java NOT coffee
Clinton NOT (William OR Bill)    

Excludes records containing
the second search term.

Truncation/Wildcard Symbols

Truncation or wildcard symbols can broaden your search and allow you to look for variations of words. For example, the truncation sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc. Using a wildcard in the search wom?n would bring up the variations woman and women.

Note: The truncation and wildcard symbols used can vary depending on the electronic resource you are searching. For more information, consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages.

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