Friday, September 1, 2006

Use OR to Expand your Search

If you find that your search strategy is not finding enough relevant results or that you are searching for a topic that can be described by multiple keywords, one of the easiest ways to remedy these situations and expand your list of results is through the use of the search operator OR. Think for a second about how we use OR in everyday usage. "Do you want pizza or a sub for dinner?", "Should I wear the green, yellow or blue tie with this outfit?" OR is used to search on ANY of the keywords it connects. However, in crafting a search (and unlike the second example above which uses a comma), you need to remember to put OR between every word or phrase. OR, in the world of searching, is referred to as a "Boolean operator," the same as AND.

Examples:
  • teenager or adolescent or child
  • "child abuse" or "domestic violence"
In the first example, the search will return any result that contains any or all of the terms used: teenager, adolescent, child. In the second example, it will return anything containing either or both of the phrases enclosed in double quotes.The best part is that OR (and AND) are nearly universally accepted in searching. This means this strategy can be used in almost all of our research databases.

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