Search tips and tricks

Boolean terms

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

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

Boolean operators:

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

Example: 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.

Library search

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.

Library search

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

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

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’. Fin out how to filter your search.

Access the ADF library