Boolean Operators and Truncation Searching
Online databases, indexes, catalogs, and the World Wide Web contain vast quantities of information. In order to tap into their full potential, you must become proficient at constructing searches.
Believe it or not, computers cannot think. Computers cannot interpret your intent when you type in words. However, a computer will do exactly what you tell it to do when you type in a search. To the computer, your combination of words is nothing more than a collection of characters. It tries to match your exact terms in the exact order you typed them. Most failed searches are the result of poorly constructed search queries.
How you combine terms and concepts has a direct bearing on what you retrieve.This lesson will teach you the basic tools, strategies, and techniques for finding your information "needle" in the "information haystack."
Boolean operators are words used to make a logical search
Boolean operators help bridge the gap between human thought and language and computers which use mathematical logic to compute--not think. You may have already encountered their "inventor," George Boole, in your Introduction to Logic course.
A skillful searcher can combine Boolean operators and knowledge of database fields to articulate a search that causes a computer to retrieve relevant results from a database. A skillful searcher can also analyze the reasons for failed searches and make intelligent adjustments
Online searching is an art. Take heart! Even the most advanced, experienced searchers rarely get it right on the first try. Be prepared to adjust--with intelligence.
The basic Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT.
Translating Questions into Computer Searches
Step 1: State your thesis in the form of a researchable question
EXAMPLE: What are the effects of television violence on young adults?
EXAMPLE: television violence young adults
EXAMPLE: television TV movies cartoons news
EXAMPLE: violence guns murder rape gangs war
EXAMPLE: young adults teenagers adolescents teens youth
(television OR TV OR cartoons OR news) AND (violence OR guns OR murder) AND (teenagers OR youth OR adolescents)
Using the four steps demonstrated above, translate one of these thesis questions into a computer search.
Boolean logic is not always simple
Databases may handle Boolean operators differently.
Many databases have online help you can read to learn how Boolean operators are used.