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NWACC Library

Search Hacks

A quick guide for getting the most out of library search tools and academic databases

Discover 3 Magic Words

There are 3 Magic Words, called Boolean terms (sometimes called Boolean operators, or command terms), you can use to connect or disconnect keywords.

Using the 3 Magic Words singly or in combination creates a more precise and powerful search, with a higher percentage of relevant results.

This logic works in Google, as well as library search tools.

Venn diagram of Boolean operators



AND connects different concepts. AND limits your search and reduces results by making them more precise.

The more keywords you connect with AND, the fewer results you will retrieve. The database will need to find each of your keywords in the text in order to show it to you.

Venn diagram illustrating AND

Jack AND Jill: results about both Jack AND Jill; ignores results that don’t mention both



OR combines concepts.

OR expands your search and  increases results. This can retrieve an overwhelming large number of search results!

Using OR is helpful when we are searching for a concept that is described equally well by more than one term.

Venn diagram showing OR

Jack OR Jill: results about either Jack OR Jill


NOT excludes concepts and reduces results.

This type of search is good to use when you already know what you do NOT want. 

Use with caution! It can remove relevant results.

Venn diagram displaying NOT

Jill NOT Jack: results about Jill but without any mention of Jack


Using Boolean Logic on Muppet Names