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UCOR 102: Imaginative Literature & Critical Writing (Cipri - Paper 2): Database Search Tips


Cover image for the Tor Books edition of The Red Magician. Painting by Eric Fortune.


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Academic Search Elite (EBSCOhost) Search Tips

Boolean Operators

AND - combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, education and technology finds articles that contain both terms.

OR - combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, education or technology finds results that contain either term.

NOT - excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, education not technology finds results that contain the term education but not the term technology


Truncation (*) Symbol

Use the truncation symbol to create searches where there are various word endings. The truncation symbol cannot be used as the first character in a search term.

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

For example, type comput* to find the words computer or computing.

Note: The Truncation symbol (*) may also be used between words to match any word.

For example, a midsummer * dream will return results that contain the exact phrase, a midsummer night's dream.


Grouping Terms Together Using Parentheses

Parentheses also may be used to control a search query. Without parentheses, a search is executed from left to right. Words that you enclose in parentheses are searched first. Why is this important? Parentheses allow you to control and define the way the search will be executed. The left phrase in parentheses is searched first; then, based upon those results, the second phrase in parentheses is searched.

Generalized Search: dog or cat and show or parade

Focused Search: (dog or cat) and (show or parade)

In the first example, the search will retrieve everything on dogs, as well as cat shows as well as everything on parades.

In the second example, we have used the parentheses to control our query to only find articles about shows or parades that reference dogs or cats. 


Using Quotation Marks

Typically, when a phrase is enclosed by double quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. If a phrase contains stop words, the stop words will not be searched, but the searchable words will be searched in the order as entered. A stop word will never be searched for in an EBSCOhost database, even if it is enclosed in double quotation marks. A search query with stop words only (i.e. no other terms) yields no results.


Search tips are taken from the EBSCOhost website

ProQuest Search Tips

For the most part, the EBSCOhost and ProQuest search engines work in the same ways. So the general tips given above apply to ProQuest as well as EBSCOhost.