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Search Tips

Want to run better computer searches? The suggestions on this page will help you to create better searches.

Identifying Search Terms

Computer databases are very literal and will only search for what you explicitly tell them to search for. Whenever you are searching on a computer think about synonyms and closely related terms that you can use to express each of your major concepts. For example:

Concept One media television advertising
Concept 2 self-esteem self-perception
Concept 3 women girls adolescents

  • Use your search terms in different cominations and if you are not finding enough try eliminating the least important concept from your search or think of other terms.
  • Look at the vocabulary being used in the database to describe your topic and add those terms to your searches.

Connecting Search Terms

Most computer search engines and library databases let you decide how you want to connect your search terms. The three connecting words used are AND, OR, and NOT. Using these terms will help you to effectively broaden or narrow your searches.


Narrows your search
Connecting terms with AND

Broadens your search
connecting terms with or

Narrows your search by eliminating a single term
connecting terms with not

Using Truncation

In computer searching, truncation is the process of searching for a root or base form of word that can have multiple endings. Use truncation to:
  • Find the single and plural of words in a single search
  • Find words that are closely related but have different endings
  • Help you out when you are not search how to spell a complete word

To indicate that you want to truncate a word in a search you add a symbol after the stem.
Common truncations symbols are:
  • ?   Used in the UVM Library Catalog
  • *   Used in most other databases

Examples of truncation in action:

environment* femin* symbio*




Using Advanced Search Options

Most search engines and library databases offer advanced options that let you further control your search. Advanced options vary from database to database.

Among the options you will frequently see are:

Limit for dates of publication Limit date
Limits for type of article Limit by document type
Limits for where a word occurs in the information about an article Limit where a word occurs

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