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Library Services for CMLT Students and Faculty: Search Tips and Examples

Search Tips and Examples

  • SUBJECT HEADINGS are a defined and controlled set of terms used to describe items in a database.
  • SUBJECT searches locate items specifically assigned a SUBJECT HEADING.
  • SUBJECT HEADINGS can refine your search to the most relevant resources.
  • To locate a subject heading in the Phillips Library catalog, open a book record and look for the SUBJECT HEADINGS.
  • Locate a SUBJECT you are interested in and click on the arrow next to it.

A screenshot of subject headings in a library catalog record.

Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT.
Boolean operators connect your search terms together in order to NARROW or BROADEN your search results.
If your topic contains several search terms, BOOLEAN OPERATORS help refine your search.

Databases commonly recognize AND as the PRIMARY BOOLEAN OPERATOR, and will search for the two terms connected by AND first.
If you use more than one Boolean operator in a search, be sure to enclose the terms connected by OR or NOT together in parentheses.
For example:
democracy AND (united states OR france)
Use AND to:
NARROW your search.
•Indicate that ALL search terms must be present in the search results.
example: women AND leadership

Use OR to:
     •BROADEN your search.
     •Indicate that ANY of your search terms can be present in the search results.

example: women OR leadership

Use NOT to:
     •EXCLUDE words from your search.
     •NARROW your search by indicating which concepts related to your search are to be ignored.
example: education NOT middle school

TRUNCATION broadens your search to include various endings and spellings of a ROOT WORD.
Use the ROOT WORD, followed by an ASTERISK (*).
theol* = theology, theological, theologian
econ*  = economy, economic, economics, economical
WILDCARD broadens a search by substituting a SYMBOL for a letter.
wom?n = woman, women
defen?e = defence, defense