Q. What are boolean operators?


Boolean operators are the words "AND", "OR" and "NOT".  When used in library databases, they can make each search more precise - and save you time! How do I use Boolean operators?

AND:  AND narrows a search by telling the database that ALL keywords used must be found in an article in order for it to appear in your results list. Search for two or more concepts that interest you by combining descriptive keywords with AND. 

For instance, if you're interested in reading articles about the psychology of children, you may want to search for children OR youth AND psychology.   All articles in your results will include both keywords.

OR:  OR broadens a search by telling the database that any of the words it connects are acceptable. This is particularly helpful when you are searching for synonyms, such as “death penalty” OR “capital punishment.” 


NOT: NOT narrows your search by telling the database to eliminate all terms that follow it from your search results. This can be useful when:

  • you are interested in a very specific aspect of a topic (letting you weed out the issues that you're not planning to write about)
  • when you want to exclude a certain type of article (book reviews, for instance, aren't typically helpful when writing a college-level paper)

Use NOT with caution as good items can be eliminated from the results retrieved.


  • Last Updated Nov 14, 2016
  • Views 4
  • Answered By Eleanor Goldberg

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