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WILD 401: Fish and Wildlife Capstone

Search Strategies

To maximize your time and effectiveness in the research process, take advantage of some of the following search techniques that can be applied to many databases, including article databases, the library catalog, and commercial search engines.

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching involves connecting terms and concepts using the words "and", "or" and "not" in order to narrow or expand your search. If you use a phrase such as children with cancer, a database will most often look for that as a phrase and thus reduce the number of items significantly because it has to find those 3 words in a row. Therefore, you would want to use children and cancer instead because the database will look for those words anywhere in the record.

Boolean Operator Example Reason to Use
AND women AND military To find items that have both terms and to DECREASE the number of items found.
OR university OR college Use for synonyms and to INCREASE the number of items found.
NOT windows NOT Microsoft

To eliminate terms and concepts and to DECREASE the number of items found.



Truncation is a technique used to broaden your search. Truncation searches multiple forms of a root word 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 or library catalog will return results that include any ending of that root word.
  • Examples:
    • cell*= cells, cellular, cellophane, cellulite
    • child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood
  • Truncating some words can return irrelevant results. Looking for a good website on cats? By searching cat* your search will return results, including cats, catapult, cathedral, caterer, and so on. In this instance, search (cat OR cats).
  • Truncation symbols vary by database and website, but are most commonly: *,!,?


A wildcard is a character that can be used in a search term to represent one or more other characters. Substitute a symbol for one letter of a word.

  • This is useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning.
  • Examples:
    • wom!n = woman, women
    • colo?r = color, colour