Answered By: Sara Marks
Last Updated: Sep 06, 2017     Views: 8

When you're starting from the library's Article Quick Search tool, you can narrow down your results by thinking carefully about your search query in relation to your topic. Remember this can be a process, so play with your words and remember boolean operators can help broaden and narrow results. 

The search engine of online journal indexes are based on a system of combining terms using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to control the results of your search. To use two or more Boolean operators, you need to know how to use a technique called nesting.

  • Use AND to narrow a search since both terms must be present in the articles you retrieve.
  • Use OR to expand a search. Your search will retrieve articles with EITHER of the terms. OR is most often used to combine synonyms or like terms.
  • Use NOT to exclude a term. Articles with the first term will be retrieved. Articles with the second term will not.

Nesting involves using parentheses so the search engine will perform the Boolean operations in the sequence you intend. This technique allows you to build a complex search using two or more operators (AND, OR, NOT, NEAR, WITH). 

Once you've received your results, the next step is to give the database specific dates to search, languages, source types, and if you want to be specific, subjects. These options are usually on the side of the page. 

Most databases will have these options, you just have to look for them and play around until you find what you're looking for. Databases vary, so be sure to either check out help screens or ask a reference librarian.

You can also narrow down results using the Advanced Search Option (available in most databases).  

Note: Don't narrow down your results with the Full Text option because the library can usually find resources not listed on the database, even if through InterLibrary Loan.