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Texas CPM Program: Search Strategies

This course guide was created for Dr. Balanoff's CPM class.

Search Strategies

This page covers search strategies that can be used to search the databases covered in this guide. Use keywords or short phrases to search for information on your topic and try using different strategies as described below when searching to retrieve relevant results. 

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching refers to using the operators, AND, NOT and OR to combine keywords or short phrases to return more relevant results.

air AND water - both keywords must be in the results list

air NOT water - air must be in the results list; water must be excluded

air OR water - either keyword must be in the results list

The animations below show how using the operators changes search results. 

Boolean Operators in Action: AND

Boolean Operators in Action: NOT

Boolean Operators in Action: OR

Phrase Searching

Truncation Searching

Truncation is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.

  • To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.
  • The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.
  • Examples:
    child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood
    genetic* = genetic, genetics, genetically
  • Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #

Wildcard Searching

Wildcard searches allow the database to replace the wildcard symbol with any letters that would make up a real word. It's like a shorthand way of typing every possible word that fits the pattern with OR in between.
Symbol What it does Sample search Instead of typing
* replaces zero or more letters at the end of a word
(this is truncation)
comput* computer OR computing OR computational OR...
# replaces at most one letter ne#t net OR neat OR next OR nest OR...
? replaces only one letter b?t bat OR bet OR bit OR bot OR but OR...

REMEMBER: Some databases may use these symbols differently or may use different symbols, so check the database's help section if you're having problems with wildcards.

Proximity Searching

Proximity searching allows for articles with two or more terms or phrases in certain proximity to each other to be identified.

Types of proximity searches:

  • Near - operational when placing an N and a number between the search terms or phrases, and
  • Within - operational when placing a W and a number between the search terms or phrases. The number is used to indicate the maximum number of words between the two search terms or phrases. 


Dogs N5 Cats

Searches for articles with the terms "dogs" and "cats" within 5 words of each other, REGARDLESS OF ORDER.


Dog W5 Cats

Searches for articles in which the the term "cats" FOLLOWS the term "dogs" within 5 words. Only searches for the terms or phrases IN THE ORDER they are presented in the search.