MINI-LESSON ON BOOLEAN SEARCHING

Boolean searching is named after the English mathematician, George Boole (1815 - 1864), who developed a branch of mathematics that is used with electricity and computers today. This branch of mathematics is called Boolean Algebra and uses the words and, or, and not.

The Internet and the World Wide Web contain a vast collection of information that is stored on millions of computers around the world. In order to find information in this plethora of data, searching standards were developed and based on Boolean Algebra. Almost all search engines on the Web and all databases at University of Phoenix library use these standard search techniques to locate information. This mini-lesson is intended to teach you the basics of Boolean searching.
 

STEP ONE: SELECT A DATABASE

The first step in doing research at University of Phoenix Library is to select the appropriate database. For this exercise, we will use the major article databases: EBSCOhost, InfoTrac OneFile, and ProQuest. At the library, select "Article Databases -- Major" as shown by the red arrow in the graphic below.

After selecting the major article databases, you will see the following screen (graphic below). Select one of the databases by clicking on its name.

 

STEP TWO: USE AND TO WRITE A SEARCH STRING

In each of the three major databases, you will see a search field with a SEARCH button after the field (see the graphics below):

 

 

 

 

 

InfoMark: you can save this URL for future use

 

 

 

ProQuest

 

 

Into this search field, you should type the keywords for your search. Use the word AND between each word. By using the word AND, you are telling the database to find articles that have all of your words in the same article. The words might be pages apart, but all of your keywords will be in the same article.

 

Let's assume you want to find information about adults and the unique ways in which adults learn. Two keywords that are important to this particular search are adults and learn. As such, you would type adults AND learn into the database search field then click the search button. What you type into the search field is called a search string. Thus, adults AND learn is a search string. Plan on always using the word AND between each keyword in your search string unless the words meet the exceptions in steps three and four below.

 

Note that some search engines on the Web, such as Google and AltaVista, allow you to type a plus sign instead of typing the word AND; however, use the word AND at University of Phoenix Library. The Boolean words and, or, and not are not case-sensitive. You may type them in all capital letters, in all lowercase letters, or in combinations of upper and lower case.

 

 

STEP THREE: USE QUOTATION MARKS TO INDICATE PHRASES

In step two above, you learned to use the word AND between every word in your search string. Step three discusses one of the two exceptions to that rule. Occasionally, you will have a phrase for which you want to search. An example of a phrase might be Abraham Lincoln, who was the 16th president of the United States. Your keywords are Abraham, Lincoln, and president.

 

If you were to use AND between each word in your search string (Abraham AND Lincoln AND president), you might discover an article about Abraham Maslov, president and CEO of Morris Steelworks, who drives a Lincoln Continental car. All three of your words would be in the article as you requested, but the article is definitely not what you had espected.

 

Because the name Abraham Lincoln is a phrase, you should type quotation marks around the phrase and omit the AND. Thus your search string would be: "Abraham Lincoln" AND president. The phrase inside the quotation marks is treated as a single word.

 

STEP FOUR: USE PARENTHESIS AND OR TO INDICATE SYNONYMS

At times, it is difficult to find information on the Internet or in a library database because you might use one word and the database uses a different word to mean the same thing. For example, you might want to find a consumer review of the Chevrolet automobiles (review AND Chevrolet AND automobile). An excellent review might be on the Web, but it might not use the word automobile. This excellent review might use the word car instead.

 

If similar words (synonyms) might be used in database articles, you should use all of those synonyms in your search string. Do this by (1) putting parenthesis around the series of similar words and (2) typing the word OR between the words. Here is what your consumer review search would look like:  review AND Chevrolet AND (automobile OR car)

 

STEP FIVE: USE WILDCARDS TO INDICATE WORD ROOTS

Most of the time, at least one of your search words will be a noun or a verb. Nouns and verbs are unique in that they have a root word but often appear in a form of the root with a prefix or suffix. An example of this is the word ski. Other words that might be used in an article about "ski" are skiing, skier, and skis. If you were to type skier, you would miss all the articles about skiing or people who like to ski. Thus, you should use only the root word in a search string, but also use a wildcard to indicate that you want articles with all other forms of the word in them. The asterisk (*) is used as a wildcard in almost all databases; however, a question mark (?) is used in ProQuest databases for a wild card.

 

Note that you should use the wildcard symbol only when word forms will commonly appear and when the root word is unique. If the root word is common or too short, your search with a wildcard symbol may retrieve undesired results. The Wildcard Basics handout from University of Phoenix gives the following example: Suppose you wanted information about management. You could use the search term manag*. This would retrieve articles mentioning manage, manager, managers, management, and managing. Remember not to shorten the search term too much. Had you used man* in your search string, you would have received information about management, but you would also have retrieved information about manuals, mankind, manipulation, and people named Manuel, etc.

 

THE BOOLEAN BASICS WORKSHEET (WK 2 DQ 1)

This assignment has two parts to it. Be sure to complete both parts.

  1. Create five search strings (one for each of the worksheet items below). Type your five search strings into a Word document or into the body of a message in the <Assignments> newsgroup. Note that you will receive an error message when posting to the <Assignments> newsgroup--this error message is normal. It is not required for you to actually perform the searches, but it is recommended that you try the search in one of the databases at the University of Phoenix Library to test your search string. The first part of the assignment will simply be five search strings created using Boolean basics.
     

  2. For the second part of the DQ assignment, write a message in <Main> as a REPLY GROUP to the thread that has been provided. Discuss your reflections about Boolean basics, research, and the resources at the University of Phoenix Library. Share any tips, techniques, or strategies you use or have learned about research.

University of Phoenix Faculty Material

Boolean/Wildcard Worksheet

For each of the topics below, construct a Boolean search string using and, or, and parentheses where appropriate. Add wildcards when appropriate. Submit your five search strings to the <Assignments> newsgroup.

  1. benefits for domestic partners

  2. drug testing in the workplace

  3. prevention of myocardial infarction (also known as heart attack)

  4. railroads or trains in Europe

  5. discipline in special education

 

Note that there is no single right answer to each of the five search strings. Your answers will vary. As I check this assignment, I will look for evidence that you understand the basics of when to use AND, OR, quotation marks, parentheses, and wildcards. Do the best you can then participate in a discussion about Boolean basics in our <Main> classroom. I will post suggested answers in <Course Materials> in a few days (remember, your answers may vary).


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