Jack Jones painting of the Peabody Institute Library, Danvers
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Search Tips

Tips on Searching Information Databases

Although databases may look different, the basic techniques for searching (e.g., for magazine articles) can be applied to most databases. You can check the help screens for each database to see what rules apply.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

AND, OR, NOT (Logical Operators)

AND Use AND to combine two or more terms e.g. (exercise AND health).
OR Use OR if you want to search either of two terms e.g. (exercise OR aerobics).
NOT Use NOT to eliminate terms e.g. (exercise NOT walking).


If you want to search a phrase you may need to put it in quotation marks e.g. "global warming." However, some databases assume you want to search two words together as a phrase; if you don't you will need to use AND in between.

Parentheses (Nesting Operators)

Use parentheses to combine sets of terms. For example, (water OR air) AND pollution ("and" & "or" don′t need to be in caps) will search for any articles on either water pollution or air pollution.

Wildcards (!, *, ?)

Use Wildcards to find all forms of a particular term. For example, child* will search for child, children, childhood, childrearing, etc. Check each database to find out which symbol the particular database uses. The most common wildcard symbol is an asterisk.

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Last updated: June 4, 2007