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Before starting your search ask yourself

What specific words, phrases, and names will occur in the document I want?

This could be:

  • unique terms, names, organisations
  • phrases or word strings
  • similar words 
  • timeframe. 

Boolean Searching 

All search engines use logic to combine search terms. Boolean search logic lets you combine keywords with operators/modifiers such as AND, NOT and OR to produce the most relevant results. This allows you to conduct faster, more effective searches.

The most commonly used concepts are:

AND 

Pages returned will mention all the words in the search.

For example, a Boolean search could be skateparks and Adelaide. This would return search results specific to those pages containing both the two keyword search terms. 

All search engines assume that the connections between the search terms will be “AND” unless otherwise specified.

NOT 

The search engine will eliminate those pages which have the selected keyword or phrase mentioned after NOT. 

OR 

Pages returned will include ANY OF THE WORDS in the search. This may return masses of results. This is not useful unless the terms are very unusual, or you want to include synonyms, interchangeable terms or variant spellings.

Quotes

If you are searching for an exact phrase or term you can enclose it in quotation marks. These can be used at the same time as other Boolean search operators.

Parentheses [ ] 

Each of the Boolean operators described above will work on either a simple search term or a more complex query marked by parentheses.

For example, [bed and breakfast] AND [grapes AND California] OR [wine country]

Near/Proximity 

Some engines/databases also recognise a proximity operator. This will return results if the search terms appear within 10 words of each other. 

Wildcards and Truncation

To get the best results when searching, you may need to consider the variations of a word in your search.  Using the asterisk * truncation symbol: work* finds work, works, worker, workplace. Using the question mark? wildcard symbol: organi?ation finds organization, organisation

Google does not use truncation. Instead it uses automatic stemming and searches the word you typed in plus any additional letter at the end of that word. Consequently, you need to type in the complete word and not a truncated one. Also as you type in the search box with an incomplete word, Google’s predictive search provides suggestions with variations of the words typed. If you type tee, suggestions for teen, teenager, and teeth are provided under the search box.

Limiting by date 

Limits results to pages published on the Web within a specified period of time. This may be in the form of drop-down menus activated by radio buttons or by using a date range operator.

Word filters

These provide an area to specify further words or phrases that should be included or eliminated.

Many search engines/databases are also able to limit your search to find words in the: 

  • Exact Phrase
  • Page Title

It is possible to limit your search by language, country of origin or media. Search engines vary in the limiting options they offer. All search engines provide a “Help” link, which explains the best way to use that particular service.

Filters 

At the top or bottom of a search results page, you’ll see a number of ways to filter your results to see one type of content. For example, click Images to have all of your search results pictures only, or Shopping to see search results that help you find ways to buy the things you searched for.

Once you’ve decided what type of results you want, you can refine your results even further using Search tools. Search tools can include things like location, colour, size, and the date a page was published.

URLs

URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. It is really an internet address that locates a resource on the world wide web (www). A quick look at the URL can also give information about the web-page, its organisational and geographic origins. Each URL will contain a suffix or ending which indicates the type of organisation that has sponsored the page. 

These suffixes include:

  • gov – Government agencies
  • edu – Educational institutions
  • mil –  Military
  • org – Organisations - for example Red Cross
  • com – Commercial organisations
  • net – Network organisations
  • info – General use
  • biz – Business
  • name – Individuals
  • pro – Professionals
  • museums – Museums
  • au – Australia 
Library Guides of the State Library of SA

Library Guides

Research assistance, subject guides and useful resources compiled by the State Library of South Australia.