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Writing & Research Helps

Phrase Searching

Sometimes when searching a multi-word phrase, you may look at search results and wonder "Why did that come up?" When searching, some resources will look for the individual words anywhere in an item record rather than looking for a group of words together or in a specific order. That's where Phrase searching is useful 

Place quotation marks around a phrase, such as “domestic abuse” or “civil rights” to reduce the number of search results. 

The search results will contain only those items using the entire phrase rather than the individual words of the phrase. 

For example, a search for civil rights in LCU DISCOVERY Library Catalog without quotation marks retrieved 1,352 items while a search for “civil rights” with quotation marks retrieved 1,077 items. 

Phrases are particularly helpful when searching the Internet. 

Advanced Searching

Boolean Operators in an Advanced Search Screen

Boolean Operators tell the computer how to combine the search terms to locate the search results you want. The three Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT.


  • AND retrieves those items which relate to both terms joined by the operator AND.
  • AND is a limiting function that only retrieves items containing both terms.
  • For example, a search for "women" retrieves 2,162 items while a search for "ministry" retrieves 1,207 items.
  • However, a search for "women AND ministry" retrieves only the 209 items which contain both women and ministry.
  • AND is most useful when looking for specific multi-term subjects.


  • OR retrieves everything relating to either term joined by the OR.
  • OR is most useful in joining synonyms or related terms in order to retrieve as many items related to the subject as possible. 
  • For example, "counseling OR psychotherapy" would retrieve 2,580 items and "preaching OR homiletics" would retrieve 2,980 items. 
  • These examples retrieve every item containing any one of these terms and thus is a very large search. 


  • NOT, like AND, is a limiting function that excludes certain items from a search. 
  • For example, "psychology NOT children" would eliminate any items relating to children from the retrieved set of 6,319 psychology items leaving only the 5,626 items relating to adolescent, adult, and animal psychology. 
  • NOT is most useful when you need to eliminate just one part of a larger set, or when you are not sure what you want to find but know what you do not wnat. 
  • For example, a student is assigned a psychology paper who does not know what to research but knows for certain child psychology is not personally interesting.

Select Advanced Search in most catalogs and databases to combine multiple search terms with the Boolean Operator of your choice.


Sometimes you are searching for a topic that might have several variations such as psychology and psychological or literacy and literate. Rather than doing separate searches for each of the variations which would take a long time, you can use Truncation!

Truncation searches for the root word rather than full words.

  • Truncation is frequently formed by adding an * after the root word.  A $ or ? are sometimes used as well.  
  • For example, one could use "psych*" to search for terms like psychology, psychological, psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy.  However, this search also retrieves a large number of results.  Another example would be "homil*" which would search for homiletics, homily, or homilies. 
  • While this is a good way to search for several related terms, there are some problems with using truncation. Sometimes, truncation will retrieve unrelated terms.  For example, "psych*" would also retrieve items related to psychics, Psyche, and psychedelics. 
  • A better example is “homil*” which would search for homiletics, homily, or homilies.
  • Truncation is especially useful when combined with other search techniques such as Boolean Operators or Advanced Search.

Putting It All Together

The video below gives more information on Phrase Searching, Truncation, and Boolean Operators.