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Research Guides@Tufts

Advanced Searching Techniques

Introduction to Advanced Searching Techniques

In order to conduct a thorough search, you may need to use a combination of operators and search terms.  Researching within databases is an interative process that is part art and science.  Use of operators, search terms and keywords results in highly efficient research.

This research guide will help you construct search queries in Tufts University's Catalog, as well as the following databases:‚Äč

Searching Techniques 101

What is a Search Operator?

Certain search operations or specified symbols, are used in order to specify the type of actions you would like the database's search engine to peform.  For example, to search for a specific phrase or spelling, use quotation marks to contain the exact words you wish to search for. 

 Using quotation marks allows for explicit matching of text. For instance, searching "heart disease"  will only search for this exact wording and phrase, as opposed to using heart disease as a keyword which may include all instances, variations, considerations of

Conversely, you can purposefully exclude a word from your search by adding a (-) dash before the word so that it is not included in your results. 

Some of the most universal search operators across different databases are:


   A character is used within or at the end of the word to substitute for one character    or     no characters

Example: colo?r retrieves documents with the words color and colour



   Retrieves any number of characters after the word stem or no characters.

Example: disease$ retrieves documents with the word disease, as well as the diseases, diseased, etc.

Boolean Operators:


     Retrieves searches by combing terms with the use of words AND, NOT, and OR.  OR will    help you gather synonyms,  use NOT to eliminate, AND to require both (or all) factors.

Example: diet OR nutrition, cancer NOT diet, diet AND cancer


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