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COM 1040: Public Speaking

Boolean Operators and Symbols

Boolean Operators are words or symbols used to combine keywords in a search.

The most commonly used operators are: AND, OR, and NOT. When used in all caps, search engines (Library Search, databases, and Google) recognize them as a specific function. These are best described by using Venn diagrams.

Click the tabs at the top of this box to learn more about each operator.

Use AND when you want to limit your search to a specific combination of words.

If you are researching social media but receive too many results about social media users or the social media site itself when you only want information on social media about the experience of influencers, you could use AND to make sure you only receive results with both terms in the item record.

OR will expand your search to results that have one, the other, or both search terms in the item record.

If you are researching something with a name that varies depending on the context, you can use OR to make sure the system is searching all possible versions of that term. For example, some information on LGBTQ+ topics uses the term "LGBTQ" while "homosexual" is more commonly used in medical texts. If you want both, use OR to combine your terms.

Use NOT to narrow your search and eliminate instances of another term.

If you are searching with a term that is part of a larger term not relevant to your research or that term is also used in a different field, you may need to use NOT to remove results. For example, if you are searching for the portrayal of witches in the media and use the term "witch," you may receive results about The Witcher, a book, video game, and Netflix series. To remove these results, use NOT.

To use NOT in Google searches, use - (minus sign).

Though some Advanced Search features of search engines allow you to have multiple search boxes with drop-down menus for Boolean Operators, you can use multiple operators in single line searches.

( ) Just like in math, parentheses are their own groupings. This part of the search is done before it is combined with any other part of the search.

" " Quotation marks make sure that two or more words are in that exact order or are found with that exact spelling.

* An asterisk functions as truncation. It can be used to find words with multiple endings. For example, teach* will search for teach, teacher, teachers, teaches, and teaching.

? A question mark functions as a wildcard. It can be used to find words where only one letter is changed. For example, wom?n will search for women, woman, womyn, and womxn.

example advanced search using separate search boxes

example advanced search using one search box

Both of the searches above will function the same even though they are written differently.

Library Search at a Glance

WMU’s Search and Discovery system (our "Online Catalog") is called Library Search.

You can use Library Search to:

  • Search for books, videos, music, and articles.
  • Limit search results to peer-reviewed publications only.
  • Browse books on the shelf using the “Virtual browse” feature.
  • Set up “alerts” for search terms, authors, publishers, etc. This will automatically send you e-mail notification once something new goes into the database that matches your criteria.
  • Save and export search results.

What am I searching?

When you search Library Search, you are searching most of the books, journals, journal articles and other scholarly materials that we have either in our physical collections OR that we own or subscribe to electronically. You can search materials that we don't own or subscribe to using the "Expand Beyond My Library" box in the Library Search results. So Library Search does NOT search EVERYTHING. However, it does search a large interdisciplinary selection of materials, similarly to Google Scholar, as shown in the diagram below. It was designed to meet the needs of undergraduate users who have not yet been exposed to discipline-specific databases (PsycINFO, PubMed) and interdisciplinary researchers whose research does not fall into neat, tidy disciplinary categories.

Coverage of sources in Library Search

* Some materials are not discoverable through Library Search. For an idea of what is NOT covered, please see the "Library Search Collections" page above.

Library Search

Interdisciplinary Research

Don't forget to check out our other Research Guides for advice on researching in other disciplines and what sources are recommended.