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Wellesley College Research Guides

WRIT 146: Alternative Worlds

From Keywords to Search Strategy


  • On each page of the tutorial, wait for the prompt before moving to the next page.
  • When prompted to open up a database on the final page, use Wellesley's SuperSearch or one of the databases on the Find Books & Articles page of this guide.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike by The WI+RE Team 2020, UCLA Library.

Boolean Searching

For more precise searching, connect your keywords in a meaningful way using the words ANDOR, and NOT.

Think of these connecting words as a bridge between keywords or concepts which allows you to narrow or broaden your search. 


Using AND narrows your search.


The more keywords you connect with AND, the fewer results you will retrieve. The database will need to find each of your keywords in the text in order to show it to you.

For example:  "homeless youth" and education and "new york city"

Be careful not to add unnecessary words to AND searches. You might miss pertinent information. Sometimes the simpler the search, the better.

Using OR broadens your search.


Here we are less picky with what terms we want to retrieve. Using OR is also helpful when we are searching for a concept that is described equally well by more than one term.

For example:  cars OR automobiles

                       environment AND (water OR lake* OR river* OR stream*)

Here the first search is asking for all information pertaining to cars or automobiles.

The second search is a little more detailed, but more precise.

Using NOT will narrow your search.


This type of search is good to use when you already know what you DO NOT want. Let's say you are doing a search on new cars but you are only interested in American made models.

For example:  (cars OR automobiles) NOT Europe.

Truncation: What Is It?

Truncation is also known as wildcard searching. It lets you search for a term and variant spellings of that term. 

To truncate a search term, do a keyword search in a database, but remove the ending of the word and add an asterisk (*) to the end of the word. The database will retrieve results that include every word that begins with the letters you entered. 


For example, if you type in the keyword, interact* the database will search for interact, interacting, interaction, and interactivty