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A guide to library resources for distance learners

Searching with Boolean Operators

Using AND in a search is a way link two (or more) words or phrases to narrow your results. This means you'll get fewer results. It is a good strategy to use if you're getting too many irrelevant results.

 Use this format: ______________ AND __________________

Example: cyberbullying AND mental health

You're telling the database that the results must have BOTH of these terms. If you add another AND _____________, then your results would have to contain all three terms. Therefore, you would get fewer results, but all of these results would be highly relevant.

Using OR broadens your search. This means you'll get more results. It is a good strategy to use if you're not getting enough results.

 Use this format: ______________ OR __________________

Example: therapy OR treatment

You're telling the database that the results must have EITHER of these terms, it doesn't matter which one. If you add another OR _____________, then your results could contain any of the three terms. Therefore, you would get more results.

Using NOT narrows your search by excluding a word or phrase. This means you'll get fewer results. It is a good strategy to use if you're getting multiple articles about an aspect of your topic that you're not interested in.

 Use this format: ______________ NOT __________________

Example: Dementia NOT Alzheimers

You're telling the database that you want all of the articles about the homeless EXCEPT the articles that focus on substance abuse.

Sometimes it's appropriate to use more than one Boolean Operator in order to retrieve the results you want. In these situations parentheses are highly important because they tell the database how you want to group your keywords.

There are many ways to do this. Here are a few formats you may wish to try:

(__________ OR __________)  AND ___________                                                   Example: (therapy or treatment) and dementia

__________ AND (__________ OR ____________)                                                  Example:  S cluster and (medial or initial)

(___________ AND __________) NOT __________                                                  Example: (Cognitive Stimulation Therapy and Dementia) not China

(__________ OR ____________) NOT ___________                                                 Example: (Speech disorder OR language impairment) not stuttering


An asterisk (*) can be used to search for multiple word endings.

Example: parent* returns results for parent, parents, parental, parenthood

(Note: It will not return results for related words like mother or father.)


A question mark (?) can be used as a wildcard.

Example: wom?n returns results for woman or women


Quotation marks (" ") can be used to search for an exact phrase.

Example: "mental health"

Getting the Most Out of Databases

To search within a specific journal in a database, click on "Publications" on the top toolbar.



Next, enter the name of the journal you wish to search. If you do not know the exact title, try using "Match Any Words" instead of "Alphabetical".


Check the box next to the journal you wish to search and then click "Add".


This adds the journal title to your search box. Add keywords and "AND" to complete your search. For example, this search looks for the keyword apraxia, but it only searches in the journal Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools. 

Check out the Advanced Search features of the databases. They are different for each database. Most will have a box to limit to peer-reviewed articles. Some have the option to limit to Evidence-based Practice. Others will allow you to limit to specific journals. Look at the advanced features to see what will help you get the results that you are searching for.


You're looking for recent articles. Most databases give you the option of limiting your results to a specific range of years. This can usually be done before or after you enter your search terms. Look for something like this:

After browsing your results, you may decide that you need to refine your results. Look for "limiters", often on the left-hand side of your results. Limiters will allow you to restrict your results to specific publications, geographic areas, and more. This is useful if you are getting too many results from Asia, Africa, etc. Some databases will have a geographic limiter in the "Advanced Search" menu before you enter your search terms. Alternatively, you could use "United States" as one of your search terms.

Save some time by selecting "Choose Databases". This will allow you to search as many of our EBSCO databases as you'd like simultaneously. ***Note: This does not include ASHA. You will have to search the ASHA database seperately.***


If you see "Full Text Finder" that means the database you're using does not have the full-text of that article. You can click on "Full Text Finder" and follow the links to see if the articles is available in one of our other databases. If it is still not available, you can request the article through InterLibraryLoan. This is a free service, but it is not instantaneous. It may take several days to get the article.