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*The Research Process: A Guide for GWC Students

Use library resources to locate and evaluate information for your class assignments.

Search Strings

decorative image: ball of stringTo retrieve the most relevant search results, you will need to construct a search string

A search string is a combination of keywords, truncation symbols, and boolean operators you enter into the search box of a library database or search engine.


Tip!Are you finding too much or not enough information?

Try using boolean operators, phrase searching, and truncation symbols, or use alternative, narrower, or broader keywords to vary your results.

Google Search Strategies

Search Strategies Examples
Searches are not case sensitive.

Barack Obama and barack obama produce the same results.

Results will typically include each word or punctuation mark included in the query. Some stop words or exceptions apply.

Google Search usually ignores punctuation that isn’t part of a search operator.
Don’t put spaces between the symbol or word and your search term. A search for will work, but site: won’t.

Keep queries descriptive, but use as few terms as possible. Avoid natural language.

Use colorado statehood instead of when did colorado first become a state.

Use double quotations marks (" ") to search terms as an exact phrase.

A search on "Barack Hussein Obama II"  will retrieve only those sites that refer to Obama by his full name. Sites that refer to him as simply Barack Obama may be overlooked.

Use the site: feature to limit your results to a specific website or class of websites.

The search cloning will only retrieve articles about cloning from the online version of the Wall Street Journal.
A search on cloning will only retrieve results within the government domain.

To allow for either of several words to appear in your results, use the OR operator. The operator must be in all caps.

A search on hotel OR lodging OR inn will retrieve results with any or all of these terms.

Video: Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Search Strategy Builder

This tool is designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic.

  Concept 1 and Concept 2 and Concept 3
Name your concepts here    
Search terms Search terms Search terms
List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words, or "short phrases" in quotes













Cut and paste the results above into the search box of a library database or search engine.
Developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License.

Video: "Tips and Tricks: Phrase Searching"

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, that are used to combine or exclude words in a search string for more focused results. 

Operator Examples Results

business AND ethics

cooking AND Spain

Results contain ALL of the search terms.

hotels OR motels

www OR world wide web

theater OR theatre

Results contain ANY of the search terms, but not necessarily all of them.

java NOT coffee

Clinton NOT Bill

Excludes results containing the second search term.


Truncation symbols: ? * ! + $Truncation or wildcard symbols allow you to look for variations of words.

They often broaden your search results.

For example, searching on sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc. 

Note: The truncation symbol varies by database. Consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages for details.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License unless noted otherwise .