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Library Research Basics: Search Statement

This guide will help you to use the library's resources for your research. Learn to find books and articles, evaluate resources, use specific databases, choose a topic, etc. Access documentation and video tutorials to help with the research process

Creating a Search Statement

Review basic search tips like using Boolean Operators, truncation, and phrase searching to help make searching in databases more effective.  Once you feel comfortable with these strategies, go to the Piece Your Statement Together page to help you put everything together - topic, brainstorming for terms, and searching tips.  

Other Resources

Truncation - short tutorial on truncation provided by the Owen Library at Northwest Missouri State University

Search Faster and Smarter - A silly but effective video on using synonyms and Boolean searching from The University of Sydney

Search Library Databases Like a Pro - YouTube Video with database searching tips

Boolean Searching

Boolean Searching

Boolean searching is like using algebra with words.  There are three common Boolean operators that can be used in most databases and search engines to help you narrow or broaden your search.


Without Boolean logic, searching would be very difficult.  Let's say you wanted to research the topic of violence on television.  Searching each concept individually would be a nightmare.

without boolean


Use AND when when you want both terms to show up in all the entries in your results list.  You will end up with fewer results, but the results will be more focused on your topic

Boolean with AND


Use OR to get more results, particularly when you're not sure what terms the author may have used to describe your concept.  Lets say you are beginning to refine your topic to be more specific.  You are interested in research on the topic of television violence and its effect of children.  Brainstorm other words that an author might use instead of the word children - child, youth, toddler, adolescent, teenager, etc. Here's where the search statement starts to look algebraic -

Television AND Violence AND (children OR youth OR adolescent)

like algebra

The results will be articles containing both the words television and violence and any one of the terms in orange (the intersection between all three circles).  The articles will be much more specific to your topic.


Use NOT to eliminate a term that is showing up in the results, but is not pertinent to your search.  Perhaps you want to learn about the effects of television violence on children before they reach adolescence.  You can create a search statement that looks something like this:

Television AND Violence AND (Children OR Youth) AND NOT Adolescence


Searching Hints and Tips


Truncation allows you to scoop up all forms of a word when searching.  Although every database is different, most databases recognize the asterisks symbol as the truncation command. For instance, instead of typing in the word children in the example on the left, use the root word followed by the asterisk symbol -  child*.  This would return any articles with the root word child in any of its forms - child, children, child's, children's, childhood.  You will find more articles because the database is looking for several words rather than just one.  Here's another example:

Search term:  Computer

Truncated:  Comput*

Will return articles with the words: computer, compute, computes, computation

Phrase Searching

Often your research includes words that need to go together in a phrase.  In most databases, typing the phrase in quoation marks will keep your terms together, rather than searching for each word individually anywhere in the document.

Here's an example

Topic: Judicial System

Search: Judicial System

Resulting article text has the word judicial and the word system, but not necessarily together-

One of the longstanding questions that bedevils scholars in several disciplines is how
judicial power gains traction. What, in particular, explains judicial supremacy? Theories abound, but each is lacking in some way. By looking at the answer to this question in the context of the Supreme Court of the United States, we demonstrate the vital role a federal system can play in both the rise and maintenance of judicial supremacy

Search: "Judicial System"

Resulting article text has the words judicial and system together as a phrase

Ukraine’s judicial system is still shackled by its Soviet past. Despite gaining independence in 1991, it is not surprising that this new sovereign state could not usher in overnight a new judicial system firmly based on the rule of law and the separation of powers.