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How to Research Guide

DU Libraries

Crafting Searches

Search Strategies

To make your searches more effective, try these methods:

  • Make a list of related terms
  • Use Boolean Operators to include or exclude terms
  • Limit the date range, if this option is available
  • Search for full-text only, if this option is available
  • Use quotation marks if you are searching for a phrase, such as "high stakes testing" or "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
  • Use wildcards
  • Limit to peer reviewed articles if your assigment requires it
  • Try searching by subject

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators are words that help you craft better searches. 

The operators AND, OR, and NOT are explained below:

AND lets you see where two topics overlap.

Detroit AND bankruptcy finds everything that has both the term "Detroit" and the term "bankruptcy"

OR lets you search for more than one term.

Software Engineers OR Programmers finds everything that has either the terms "software engineers" or "programmers"

NOT lets you exclude a term.

Michigan NOT Auto Industry finds everything that has the term "Michigan" but does not contain "auto industry"

For more information on Boolean operators, see our Search Techniques, Part 1 Tutorial.


Single character variation

Use a question mark in place of a letter to retrieve various spellings.  This is particularly useful if you are not sure how a word or name is spelled.

  • Example: Anders?n would retrieve Anderson and Andersen

Keyword variation

Use an asterisk to retrieve various forms of a word.

  • Example: legislat* would retrieve legislature, legislate, legislation, etc.