Use Boolean operators

You can use Boolean operators with most search engines. This is a way of indicating how you want to combine your search terms in a search engine. You put the Boolean operators between your search terms. The most frequently occurring operators are as follows:


Use this to retreive results in which all the used search terms appear. Some search engines like Google use ‘AND’ by default.


This is handy if you’re searching for a specific subcategory of a term, such as ‘corruption in South African politics’ (search for: corruption AND South Africa AND politics).


Use this operator to retreive results in which either one or the other of the search terms appear, or in which both appear.


This is handy if you’re searching for synonyms, for example: ‘cell phone’ OR ‘mobile phone.’


Use this term if you want to exclude a term from your search results, if, for example, a term has multiple meanings.


For example: skating NOT ice.


If you want to find an exact word combination or a specific sentence/phrase, set the relevant phrase within quotation marks.


In this case, the search engine will not look for the individual words, but for the phrase as a whole.


  • These operators may take different forms. Google, for example, uses the minus sign ‘-’ instead of ‘NOT’.


  • You can often find tips on search techniques in the ‘advanced search’ option of a search engine under ‘search help’.
  • More detailed instruction is available in the UL’s online course, Searching for scholarly information.


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