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Turku University Library

Information Seeking Tutorial

Combine search words

You can use the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT to combine search words into search strings:


coping AND students

The AND operator tells the database that all your search terms must be present in the result set. For example, if you use the search word coping, you will get results that include the word coping. But if you combine with AND the search words students and coping your results will more likely deal with the students’ coping. Use AND to narrow your search and you will get less results.

In many databases (not all) AND is automatically inserted between the search words. Check the database’s search help for more information!

"social media" OR facebook

OR tells the database that any of the search words must be present in the results. Use OR to broaden your search and to get more results. You can use OR, for example, to search for synonyms or broader or narrower terms.

fruit NOT apples

NOT tells the database that the first search term must be included in the results but the second search word must not be present. Be careful with using NOT in topical searches, since it may easily exclude useful material from the result set.

Combine search words to create search strings

Combine search words to create search strings

Quick searches using only one search term often bring many irrelevant search results especially in a large multi-disciplinary database. In order to make more effective and precise searches, use Boolean operators and parentheses to combine the search words into a search string.

In a search string you combine the search words representing the concepts. For example, when searching for students’ well-being the search string could be the following:



"well-being" OR wellbeing OR coping

The use of parentheses

Sometimes you are required to enter the search terms and the Boolean operators into the same search box. You can use parentheses to affect the order how the concepts are connected. Many databases will connect concepts with AND first. By enclosing the OR operations in parentheses you can change the execution order.

  • coping OR “well-being” AND student* – the database searches information on coping or information on the students’ coping
  • (coping OR “well-being”) AND student* – the database searches information on students’ coping or on students’ well-being (here the search enclosed in parenthesis will be executed first and after that it will be connected using AND with  student*)

Check the logical order in which the words are connected from the database’s search help!

Search forms

Databases offer various search forms. Usually you can find a simple basic search and an advanced search form.

Advanced search

The advanced search form offers you more options to modify your search. Enter the search terms into the search boxes and choose from the menu an appropriate search field to target your search. You can usually select the Boolean operator to connect your search terms from a drop-down menu or you can write it between the search words.

1. The advanced search form of the Academic Search Premier in EbscoHost:

2. The advanced search of the Project Muse article database:


Basic search

In Basic search you must write the Boolean operators connecting your search terms into the search field. In many databases the basic search focuses on all words of the records and often produces a lot results.

1. Basic search of the Academic Search Premier in EbscoHost:

2. Basic search of the Ebook Central: