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The Perfect Search: Database Search Tips!

How to create a search by connecting keywords using Boolean operators.

Boolean Operators connect keywords or concepts logically to retrieve relevant articles, books, and other resources.  There are three Boolean Operators:

  • AND
  • OR
  • NOT

Using AND 

  • Narrows search results
  • Connects two or more keywords/concepts
  • All keywords/concepts connected with "and" must be in an article or resource to appear in the search results list

Example: The result list will include resources that include both keywords -- "distracted driving" and "texting" -- in the same article or resource, represented in the shaded area where the circles intersect (area shaded in purple).

Using OR

  • Broadens search results ("OR means more!")
  • Connects two or more synonyms or related keywords/concepts
  • Resources appearing in the results list will include any of the terms connected with the OR connector

Example:  The result list will include resources that include the keyword "texting" OR the keyword "cell phone" (entire area shaded in blue); either is acceptable.

Using NOT

  • Excludes keywords or concepts from the search
  • Narrows results by removing resources that contain the keyword or term connect with the NOT connector
  • Use sparingly

Example: The result list will include all resources that includes the term "car" (green area) but will exclude any resource that includes the term "motorcycle" (purple area) even though the term car may be present in the resource.

When a search term is more than one word, enclose the phrase in quotation marks to retrieve more precise and accurate results.  Using quotation marks around a term will search it as a "chunk," searching for those particular words together in that order within the text of a resource. 


"cell phone"

"distracted driving"

"car accident"

TIP: In some databases, neglecting to enclose phrases in quotation marks will insert the AND Boolean connector between each word resulting in unintended search results.


Library databases provide a variety of tools to limit and refine search results.  Limiters provide the ability to limit search results to resources having specified characteristics including:

  • Full text
  • Resource type
  • Publication date
  • Language
  • Geographic location
  • Subject

In both the EBSCO and ProQuest databases, the limiting tools are located in the left panel of the results page.

                                                 EBSCO                                                     ProQuest


The short video below provides a demonstration of how to use limiters to refine a list of search results.

Library Database Picks

Select a specific database to do a focused search!

Top Pick! 


The O'Reilly digital platform includes books, videos, proven learning paths, case studies, interactive tutorials, and audiobooks. Users also get access to exclusive O’Reilly content and as well as resources from more than 200 of the world’s best publishers. Topics range from programming to IT networking to project management to graphic design to business strategy. The content includes code snippets, certification preparation materials, practice exercises, training videos, and much more.

Best Bets

Technology and Design via ProQuest 

Computing, telecommunications, art, science, and design databases from ProQuest.

Associate's Programs Source Plus via EBSCO 

Articles from more than 1,900 magazines, journals, and books that relate to associate degree programs of study including computer & data processing, forensics, graphic arts, health information technology, massage therapy, alcohol & drug abuse counseling, law enforcement & criminal justice, paralegal studies, and many more.

ProQuest (PQ Central +) 

Business, justice studies, technology and design, and allied health disciplines are all covered in this database of databases! Highlights include access to HOOVERS business content, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.

ACM Digital Library 

ACM Digital Library Contains bibliographic information, abstracts, reviews, and full-text articles published in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) periodicals and proceedings since 1985.
This subscription does NOT include full-text access to ebooks.

IEEE Xplore Digital Library 

Provides access to full-text peer-reviewed journals, transactions, magazines, conference proceedings, and published standards in the areas of electrical engineering, computer science, and electronics. It also provides access to the IEEE Standards Dictionary Online. Full-text.


Graphic Design Magazines





 Animation Magazines