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Information Literacy Research Skill Building: Advanced Database Searching

This guide contains information literacy instructional materials based on the ACRL Information Literacy Standards.

Advanced Database Searching

Advanced Database Searching


medical AND insurance
Specifies multiple words in any field, in any order You will want to use Boolean searches most of the time you are doing any keyword searches -- unless your search term is very new and/or unusual, you will retrieve too much information. spaghetti AND meatballs

(narrows search so that records must have both terms)
spaghetti OR pasta

(broadens search -- records can have either "spaghetti" or "pasta"

A truncation symbol tells the database to find any words that begin with the letters you typed, regardless of how the words end.

(i.e. medical, medicine, medicinal, medic)
Use truncation when you have a keyword term that has many similar forms which may bring up additional information related to your search topic.
Truncation symbols vary depending which database you are using.

Griffin & Firstsearch: medic*
ProQuest: medic?

If you are not sure what truncation symbol a database uses, look for the "search tips" or "help" link.

america within 3 econom*
Proximity operators allow you to locate one word within a certain distance of another.

america within 3 econom*
In Griffin, the search above finds all records in which the word "america" appears within 3 words of "economy", "economical", "economics", "economies", etc.
Use proximity operators when you are searching for keywords which should appear very close together in a database record to adequately address your topic.
Proximity operators vary depending which database you are using.

Griffin: america within 3 econom*

FirstSearch: america w3 econom*

ProQuest: america w/3 econom?

If you are not sure what proximity operators a database uses, look for the "search tips" or "help" link.
Limiting / Narrowing

Nearly all databases will allow you to limit your search in some way. This is very helpful in weeding out resources that are not useful to you for some reason. Some common ways of limiting include:


  • by language
  • by date
  • by resource type
  • by peer-reviewed resources
  • by library or library department
You will generally want to put some limiting criteria on most of your searches just to save yourself the time of looking at less-than-helpful resources.
Limiting options vary by database. Look for pull-down menus, check-boxes, etc. while you are searching:

Example: Picture of the Griffin interface
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