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Seeking the right information: Construct a search

Module 2: How do I search?

 Types of searches 

How you ask involves not only the words or phrases you enter, but the kind of search you choose to perform.

There are different types of searches:

  • Keyword search
  • Subject search
  • Wildcards and truncation search
  • Phrase search
  • Proximity search
  • Search within your search

Understanding the difference between these will help you do a better job of searching.

Be flexible in planning your search strategy. Understand that language matters.
A keyword search is always a good way to start looking for information.
If you know or discover the subject heading, use it. It will yield more precise results.


Boolean search operators

Boolean logic defines logical relationships between terms in a search. The Boolean search operators are AND,OR, and NOT. You can use these operators to create a very broad or very narrow search.

Each result contains all search terms. Each result contains at least one search term. Results do not contain the specified term.

Example: Filipino AND migration

Example: Filipino OR migration Example: Filipino NOT migration


The search Filipino and migration finds items that contain both Filipino and migration.


The search Filipino or migration finds items that contain either Filipino or items that contain migration.


The search Filipino not migration finds items that contain Filipino but do not contain migration.

Boolean AND


Boolean OR


Boolean NOT


Booleans and parentheses

To make even better use of Boolean operators, you can use parentheses to nest query terms within other query terms.

The search (Filipino OR migration) AND history finds items that contain the word Filipino or the word migration together with the word history in the fields searched by default.

Basic and advanced searching
Once you have a research topic, you are ready to begin your search for related and relevant sources to support your thesis statement.
Basic search provides a simple search of various field search options, such as Author, Title, Keyword.
Advanced search provides you search option a different combination of search fields; any combination of Author, Title & Subject.

Keyword searching versus subject searching


Using the classic catalog, let's try to look for books on or about microfinance.

Below are some of the items you would find from performing a keyword search for "microfinance."

Below are some of the items you would find from performing a subject search for "microfinance."

Wildcards and truncation searching
This technique is used to create searches where there are unknown characters, multiple spellings or various endings. The wildcard is represented by a question mark ? or a pound sign #.

Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use  truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *

The search Migrat* finds items with migration, migrate, migratory, migrator, migrational




Phrase searching
This technique is used to search for two or more words as an exact phrase. It is recommended that phrases be enclosed in quotations marks when included in searches.

The search “Filipino migration” finds items that contain Filipino migration as an exact phrase.

Proximity searching
This technique is used to search based on where, and how close, two or more search terms appear in the search result. Search engines and databases utilize a variety of different proximity operators.
The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched. Google uses an asterisk between words to denote proximity up to two words apart (example: “Filipino * Migration"). Use more asterisks to increase the allowed distance between terms (i.e. 2 asterisks = 4 terms apart, etc.).
The search “Filipino * migration” finds items that contain Filipino stories of migration,  Filipino colonial migrationFilipino nurse migration, Filipino labor migration, etc.

Searching within your search

Several online databases & search engines offer a handy feature to help you narrow your results list. After you perform your first search, look for a "Search within Results" feature.

Source: Valenza, J. 2003. Power Research Tools: Learning Activities & Posters, EBSCO Guide, ODLIS


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This contents of the Online IamInfoSMART may be reused with attribution. Please copy the following into new works based on the IamInfoSMART. The Online IamInfoSMART bthe DLSU Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported LicenseBased on a work at guides.library.uwm.eduPot of Gold Information Literacy TutorialTutorial for Info Power