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SOWK 201 (Dollar): Linking Keywords

Example Situation

You are work in a homeless shelter for women and children.  You recently had a mother come to the shelter with her five children in 1st Grade, 3rd Grade, 5th Grade, 7th Grade, and 8th Grade.  The mother shares that God has appointed her as an apostle and that she cannot wear shoes because God will set them on fire to punish her, so she has to go barefoot.  When she meets with you she will randomly drop to her knees and pray very loudly in front of you.  She tells you that she has to stop, get on her knees, and pray out loud wherever she is located when she is so moved.  The children appear healthy, emotionally stable, and well cared for by their mother. 

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: mental illness and homelessness

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.

 

Here's another way to think about it:

AND only gives you articles where your search terms overlap. See the Venn Diagrams below. The results you would get from your search are shaded in.

This search only retrieves results that have both mental illness and homelessness.

This search would only retrieve results that have all three keywords: mental illness, homelessness, and women.

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: mental illness or religion

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.

 

Here's another way to think about it:

OR gives you articles where one of your keywords appears, even if the article has nothing to do with your other keyword. See the Venn Diagrams below. The results you would get from your search are shaded in.

This search retrieves results with mental illness, with religion, and with both.

This search retrieves results with mental illness, with religion, with homelessness, with any two of these keywords, and with all three keywords.

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: homeless NOT substance abuse

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

 

Here's another way to think about it:

NOT removes a chunk of results you would ordinarily have gotten. See the Venn Diagram below. The results you would get from your search are shaded in.

This search finds all of the articles about the homeless and then removes (excludes) the ones about 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: (mental health or mental illness) and homelessness

__________ AND (__________ OR ____________)                                                       Example:  Religion and (mental health or homelessness)

(___________ AND __________) NOT __________                                                       Example: (Women and mental illness) not substance abuse

(__________ OR ____________) NOT ___________                                                      Example: (religion or apostolic faith) not mental health

 

Let's take a look at what a few searches would look like:

 

A search for (mental health or mental illness) and homelessness returns articles that discuss mental health and homelessness as well as those that discuss mental illness and homelessness. The articles do not have to have both mental health and mental illness; they can have either one.

 

A search for religion and (mental health or homelessness) would follow the same pattern. It would return articles for religion and mental health as well as religion and homelessness. However, an article does not have to discuss both mental health and homelessness to be included in the search results.

 

In this search, (women and mental illness) not substance abuse, we ask the database to give us all of the articles that are about both women and mental illness. Then we ask it to take out (exclude) the articles dealing with substance abuse.

In this search, (religion or apostolic faith) not mental health, we are asking for the database to give us any articles about religion, except the ones that explore mental health. We're also asking it for any articles about apostolic faith, except the ones that explore mental health.

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"

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