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Mechanics of the Research Process

Welcome to the Mechanics of the Research Process research guide.

General Search Strategies

The easiest way to search for information electronically is to enter a couple of keywords into the search box of the resource and see what type of results you get. This strategy, however, will often result in too few, too many, or irrelevant results.

In order to retrieve the most relevant results, you will need to construct a search string.  A search string is a combination of keywords, truncation symbols, and boolean operators you enter into the search box of an electronic library resource or an Internet search engine.

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching is the traditional way to search for information in most online databases and on the Internet. Boolean operators or connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, are used to create phrases and concepts based on specific rules of search logic.  

Operator Examples Results
AND


business AND ethics
cooking AND Spain

Retrieves records that contain    
ALL of the search terms.
OR


hotels OR motels
www OR world wide web
theater OR theatre

Retrieves records that contain
ANY of the search terms, but
does not necessarily include
all of them.
NOT


java NOT coffee
Clinton NOT (William OR Bill)    

Excludes records containing
the second search term.

Search Strategy Builder

Search Strategy Builder


The Search Strategy Builder is a tool designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. While it is not a database and is not designed to input a search, you should be able to cut and paste the results into most databases’ search boxes.

Concept 1 and Concept 2 and Concept 3
Name your concepts here
Search terms Search terms Search terms
List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words, or "short phrases" in quotes

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

or

Now, cut and paste the results into the search box of a library database (or Google).
 
The Search Strategy Builder was developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License.

Truncation/Wildcard Symbols

Truncation or wildcard symbols can broaden your search and allow you to look for variations of words. For example, searching on sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc. 

Note: The truncation symbol varies depending on the electronic resource you are searching. For more information, consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages.