Search tips and tricks

Boolean 101

Boolean operators connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your results.

The three basic Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT.

Why use Boolean operators?

  • To focus a search, particularly when your topic contains several search terms
  • To connect various pieces of information to find exactly what you’re looking for.


Australian illicit drug guide [title] AND Campbell [author] AND 2001 [year]

Using AND

Use AND in a search to:

  • narrow your results
  • tell ADF SEARCH that ALL search terms must be present in the resulting records
  • Example: alcohol AND advertising AND sport

The triangle in the middle of the Venn diagram below represents the result set for this search. It is a small set using AND, the combination of all three search words.

adf library search tips 1

Be careful with AND searches. The way this search is configured, ADF SEARCH will bring up results for any article with any of these words in the title or keywords. Put any exact phrases you need in ‘quotation marks’ to make your search more precise.

‘Alcohol adverting’ AND sport should bring you results in the order you want.

Using OR

Use OR in a search to:

  • connect two or more similar concepts (synonyms)
  • broaden your results, telling the database that ANY of your search terms can be present in the resulting records
  • Example: ice OR crystal methamphetamine OR meth

All three circles represent the result set for this search. It is a big set because any of those words are valid using the OR operator.

adf library search tips 2

Using NOT

Use NOT in a search to:

  • exclude words from your search
  • narrow your search, telling the database to ignore concepts that may be implied by your search terms
  • example: smoking NOT tobacco

Use wildcards!

Want to look for material on cannabis and cannabinoids? Use the * wildcard to tell the library this.

Cannabi* would filter in articles about cannabis along with articles about cannabinoid compounds, as well as cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Wildcards are also a useful way to get around Australian vs US spelling issues. Behav* will search on both ‘behaviour’ and ‘behavior’.

Filter your search!

In ADF SEARCH, you can use filters to narrow down your results.

  • Availability (is it open access? Is it peer reviewed? Is it available as a physical item at the ADF library?)
  • Resource type (is it an article? A conference paper? A book? A news article? Other ephemera?)
  • Creation date
  • The author
  • Topic (this section flags any keywords or subject terms used when the item was catalogued)
  • Journal title
  • Journal or article collection
  • Language