Q. What are Boolean Operators and how can I use them?


Boolean Operators are words that broaden or narrow / restrict the search results within a database.


  • OR works to give you more materials.
    • OR is frequently used to combine similar concepts into a bigger set. For example, if you were looking for information on pets, you might want to "OR" together some words to cover "all" common pets.
      • Example: pets or dogs or cats or hamsters or fish or birds
    • OR is used when a concept or item can be called by two or more distinct names or terms.
      • Example: cat or kitten or feline
    • You will typically use OR when you are not getting enough results and/or if you need to do a comprehensive search.
  • AND works to limit or narrow your search.
    • AND is frequently used to combine two different but interelated topics. You'll use AND when you want to be sure to see both topics together and not just one or the other.
      • Example: cats and nutrition
    • You will typically use AND when you have to figure out how two topics related to one another, and when you want to have fewer but better results.
  • NOT (also known as AND NOT in some databases)
    • NOT works to limit or narrow your search like AND. However, NOT removes big chunks of information. For example, if you wanted articles on cats but didn't want to see any articles that covered kittens, you might do the example search below.
    •    Example: cats not kittens
    • You will typically use NOT when your result list includes a lot of materials that are off-topic in the same way. fleas not "flea market"

AND, OR and NOT can be used in most databases. Sometimes you will actually type the words AND, OR or NOT into the database, sometimes you will use a symbol, and sometimes you will use selections from a drop-down menu.

For an example of how to create a search string using boolean operators, watch the video below.


  • Last Updated May 27, 2015
  • Views 831
  • Answered By Jeneen LaSee-Willemssen

FAQ Actions

Was this helpful? 1   0