Skills Hub

Online search skills

 

Combining keywords with commands


You can combine multiple search words using search operators or “commands”. Operators can sometimes be referred to as Boolean operators. Combining your search words using operators can improve the relevancy of your results, because operators command the search engine or database you are using to search your keywords in a more specific and filtered way.

Below are some of the most commonly used search operators; you'll find step-by-step video tutorials showing you how to use them in your searches.

You can also download a handy quick guide to search operators here.

 

Quote marks


Sometimes you might want to search for a phrase, rather than individual terms, especially if the terms are common words. This is known as phrase searching. For example, you might be looking for information on distance learning. As separate words, "higher" and "education" have different meanings to higher education. For a search engine to understand this, you must put your phrase in speech marks as follows: “higher education”.


Truncation

 

Sometimes you might want to search for a word, and all the variations of that root word, without having to type them all into the search engine. Use a truncation symbol (*) to search for a range of words with the same root in a search engine or database. For example, the word "exam" is also the root of the related word “examination”. In order to search for both, add a truncation symbol to the root ending of the word, i.e.: exam*.

Boolean OR

 

Using OR in between search words finds resources with at least one of those words in them. The word OR must be in capitals for the search engine to recognise it as a command, rather than simply a search word. Using OR can potentially increase your results.

Example Search

 


(cheat* OR plagiarism) (exam* OR assessment)
(university OR “higher education”)
 

In this example the truncation command has been used for the word "cheat" in order to find cheating, cheat, cheater, cheated, etc. The same has been done with the word exam, in order to find exams, exam, examination, etc. Quotation marks have been used in order to find the concept of "higher education". Lastly, the terms have been combined with Boolean OR.



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