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BIO 191: General Biology I

Boolean Operators, the Asterisk Symbol, and Phrases

 

Using the words AND, OR, NOT while you search will retrieve preferred results. Each of those three words serve a different purpose.

 

  • AND - Use between terms when both terms must be included in the articles. 

Searching cats AND dogs will only find articles that include both of the terms; it will not find articles that only use the word cats, and it will not find articles that only use the word dogs.

 

  • OR - Use between synonyms or when you do not care which of the search terms the database finds.

Searching cats or "Felis catus" will find articles that only contain the term cats, articles that only contain the words Felis catus, and articles that contain both cats and "Felis catus."

 

Searching cats OR dogs will find articles that only contain the term cats, articles that only contain the word dogs, and articles that contain both the terms cats and dogs.

 

  • NOT - Tells the search engine to only return results without this word.

Searching cats not dogs will find articles that include the term cats but do not include the term dogs.

 

  • The Asterisk Symbol ( * ) - Use the asterisk when you want to find articles that include all possible endings of a word.

Searching comput* will find articles that include the words computer, computers, computation, computing, etc. 

 

  • Quotes ( " ) - Use quotes when you want only want the entire term in that particular order, or when you want to search for a phrase.

Searching "heart attack" will find articles that include the phrase heart attack, but it will not find articles that only use the word heart or attack. Depending on the database, it may or may not find the phrase heart attacks, so a better search might use the asterisk symbol, such as "heart attack*"  Another search that would find articles that include both heart attack and heart attacks would be to search for "heart attack" OR "heart attacks"

 

 

Search Tips

 

Steps for a Successful Search

 

1. Choose a topic. Brainstorm 2-3 concepts within that topic or that relate. 

For example, I chose the topic Honeybee, and then Pesticides and Health as the other concepts that I want to investigate.

 

2. Think of any and all words that could describe each of those key concepts (synonyms, related words, other forms of the word, etc.)

Honey bee: Apis mellifera, Western honeybee, European honeybee, honeybee

 

Pesticides: Pesticide, Insecticide, Insecticide, Chemical, Toxic, Toxicity, Toxicant, Toxicants

 

Health: Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, Fitness, Death, Dying, Decline

 

3. To come up with a search string, connect those words with AND / OR / NOT and use the * symbol to replace the endings of words like we learned in class. Use parenthesis to group terms just like you would in math, so the database will search for the terms in parentheses first, and THEN search for everything else

honey bee AND pesticide* AND health

 

Apis mellifera AND toxic* AND collony collapse disorder

 

(honey bee OR honeybee) AND insecticide* AND death

REMINDER: When you use OR, the database will find any articles that have either one of the words, as well as any articles that have both words. So in this example, the database will look for any articles with the term honey bee, any articles with the term honeybee, and any articles with both terms honey bee and honeybee. Then, it will look at ALL of those articles and see if they also have the terms insecticide* and death in them. 

4. Use quotes to denote words that need to be found together in the search

 

"honey bee" AND pesticide* AND health

REMINDER: here, the use of quotes indicate that you only want the database to retrieve articles that use the term honey bee, and that you do not want  results that use the term bee honey or any articles that do not have the words next to each other. 

 

"Apis mellifera" AND toxic* AND "collony collapse disorder"

 

("honey bee" OR honeybee) AND insecticide* AND death

 

 

 

Tips for Reading Scientific Articles