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MUS M402: History of Music and Literature II

This guide will assist Dr. Rogers' students in locating sources for their research projects.

Using Boolean Search Operators

What is a Boolean Search?

Boolean searching allows you to mix and match search terms to better find items in a catalog.  The three main ways of doing this are with special words known as "operators" that control how your search results are displayed.  To explain this more clearly, let's look at an example using food.

You are going to order groceries for pick-up at the store.  You like chocolate and peanut butter and you want to know what groceries the store has that might contain chocolate and peanut butter.

When to use Quotation Marks:

Illustrated quotation marks.If you use a single word, like chocolate, for your search term, you do not need quotation marks. If you want to search for a term with multiple words, like peanut butter, you will need to put them in quotation marks, otherwise you will be searching for peanut and butter as separate search terms.  And buttered peanuts are not the same thing as "peanut butter."

So, our two groups are Chocolate and "Peanut Butter"
Venn diagram. One circle says "Chocolate", the other says "Peanut butter". There is no overlap.

How to use the "OR" operator:

If you want to know what food contains any combination of chocolate with peanut butter, use OR

Chocolate OR "Peanut Butter"

This search will return anything that contains chocolate, OR peanut butter, OR chocolate and peanut butter.  So, in this example, the store has three items fit that criteria: chocolate squares, a peanut butter cup, and a jar of peanut butter.

OR venn diagram. Circles intersecting say "chocolate" and "peanut butter". The entire diagram is shaded. Beneath are images of chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, and peanut butter.

How to use the "AND" operator:

If you wanted to find out what food contains both chocolate and peanut butter, use AND.

Chocolate AND "Peanut Butter"

This search will return only food in the list that contains both chocolate AND peanut butter.  It will not give you items that are made of chocolate only, or items that are only made of peanut butter.  In this example, the only item that fits the criteria is the peanut butter cup.

AND Venn diagram. Circles intersecting say "chocolate" and "peanut butter". Only the area where circles overlap is shaded. Beneath diagram is picture of peanut butter cup.

How to use the "NOT" operator

What if you don't want to anything containing peanut butter? Use NOT.

Chocolate NOT "Peanut Butter"

This search will exclude anything that contains "Peanut Butter." In this example, the only food that fits the criteria are the chocolate squares.

NOT Venn diagram. Intersecting circles labeled "chocolate" and "peanut butter". Only area with chocolate (not overlapping) is shaded. Underneath diagram is picture of chocolate bars.


Image Credits:

Oakus53. "Citation Marks." 2019. WikiMedia Commons, released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license

nagualdesign. "Chocolates on a blue background (#f8f9fa)." 2018. WikiMedia Commons, released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

"Jar of Peanut Butter." Pixybay, released under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.

Evan-Amos. "A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Big Cup." 2011. WikiMedia Commons, released under a CC0 1.0 public domain dedication.