Search Technique

There are certain search tools which are common to all types of databases and library catalogues, tools which you can use to to able to search efficiently. Search tools can vary from database to database, so it is always a good idea to read the help text to the respective database before you begin searching

Boolean Operators

Most common boolean operators are:

  • AND - combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms.
  • OR - combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms.
  • NOT - excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms following it.

Most databases and library catalogues add an AND between multiple words, and give you a result list that contains articles, books etc. with all of these words.


Truncating a search term means that you exchange zero to several characters with a wildcard - efficient if you want to search for several variations of a word. Often the wildcard symbol is an asterisk (*) - but one does find other wildcard symbols. Searching for walk* will find walk, walked, walking, walks, etc. Some databases use automatic truncating, i.e. they will find the root word as well as those using endings, without you needing to specify a wildcard. In this case, there is usually some alternative in the database for when you want to search specific words without truncation.

Quotation marks

When searching for a specific phrase, you can almost always use quotation marks (in search engines like Google too).