UI |UNIVERSITY of
UFI FLORIDA Keyword Searching for Beginners
GEORGE A. SMATHERS LIBRARIES
You want to search the computer for information on a particular topic. How do you structure a
Defining the Topic. Let's say you want to find information on the effects of anorexia or
bulimia on teenagers. The first thing you may want to do is write down your topic:
What are the effects of anorexia or bulimia on teenagers?
The words with borders around them are your most significant concepts, or key words, and
should be included in your search statement.
Combining Your Keywords. You tell the computer how to combine your chosen
keywords through the use of the connecting words AND and OR.
OR. Use OR when you are willing to accept any of two or more concepts. If you enter anorexia
OR bulimia, the computer will retrieve information on anorexia by itself, bulimia by itself, as well
as information on the two topics together. The OR connector is very good for linking synonyms or
related concepts in order to retrieve as much relevant information as possible, or for broadening
bulimia anorexia anorexia OR bulimia
AND. Use AND when you require the information retrieved to have ALL your specified keywords.
If you want to find information comparing anorexia and bulimia, or on the effects of having both
anorexia and bulimia, you would combine anorexia and bulimia with AND.
bulimia ( anorexia anorexia AND bulimia
AND and OR. If you use both AND and OR in the same search statement, you will need to
group your keywords with parentheses to let the search system you are using know how you
want the words combined. Your search statement might look like this: (anorexia OR bulimia)
(anorexia OR bulimia)
Broadening Your Search. What if you didn't find enough information on your topic? You
may want to try broadening your search.
Using OR. You could use OR to broaden your search. In our example you may be able to do so
by adding a synonym or related term for teenagers:
(anorexia OR bulimia) AND (teenagers OR adolescents OR high school)
Truncating. Another possible way to broaden your search is to truncate particular words. In
many search systems, if you use the word "adolescent," the computer will look only for
"adolescent." The computer won't search for "adolescence" or "adolescents" unless you tell it to
look for any word beginning with "adolescen." By truncating a word like adolescent with your
system's truncation symbol (usually an asterisk or a question mark), you may be able to retrieve
additional information. If your system uses an asterisk for truncation, you might try searching
(anorexia OR bulimia) AND (teenage* OR adolescen* OR high school*)
Narrowing Your Search. Let's say you found too much information. How do you narrow
Using AND. You could use AND to add another concept to your search to narrow it. For
example, you might add the term athletes to narrow the search to information on anorexic or
bulimic teenage athletes:
(anorexia OR bulimia) AND (teenage* OR adolescen* OR high school) AND athlete*
Using Adjacency. Another way to narrow a search is to require that two or more words be
adjacent to each other. In some search systems, when you enter a term such as "high school,"
the computer will automatically assume you are requiring those two words to be right next to each
other. In other systems, unless you specify adjacency (for example high ADJ school), the
system will assume you don't care if they are next to each other or not.
Want to Know More? These are just the basics of keyword searching. Check each
individual search system (the help screens are a good place to start) for advanced keyword
Created 8/00, reviewed 5/05 no updates needed AP