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Section: Using search tools

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are a group of small, simple words used to identify the logical relationships between the concepts in a search statement.  The most common Boolean operators are AND and OR, but you will sometimes find NOT to be helpful.

When searching, it is helpful to recognize what the logical relationships between your search terms are.  This skill will help you to devise more effective searches.


Combining terms by the operator AND will more narrowly focus the search and will retrieve a fewer number of records.  Generally, you use this logical relationship between terms to retrieve results that deal with all of the concepts in your research question.

For example:

men AND bulimia will retrieve results where both words are found


Linking terms by the operator OR will broaden the search and will retrieve a greater number of records.  This strategy is particularly effective when searching for similar or synonymous terms that represent a single concept in your research question.

For example:

adolescent OR youth will retrieve results where either or both words are found

AND and OR Together

To use both AND and OR in a search, brackets are needed to keep the logical relationship between the terms clear.  The terms linked by OR must be in brackets.

For example:

(youth OR adolescent) AND racism


Using NOT before a term will narrow the search by eliminating results that contain the term.

For example:

bass NOT fish


Question: You are interested in finding some information about totem poles on Vancouver Island.  What search would be most appropriate?


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