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Learn how to search for information on psychology topics in books & ebooks, article databases, and the web.

Other Techniques

Wait, there's more! Try the following techniques to make your searches even better.

Phrase Searches

Often keywords are more than one word. Databases let you put quotation marks around these so that only results with the exact phrase are listed.

"rap music"

"cell phone"


Shortening a keyword to its basic root and adding a special character (usually an asterisk "*" or "?") at the end will tell the database to search for variations of the root word.

For example, searching for politic* will find:


Note: Check the database's help screens to see which truncation symbol it recognizes. (Most Pierce databases use the asterisk as the truncation symbol.)


Parentheses are used to combine concepts and techniques. The database will search for what's grouped or nested inside the parentheses first.

("rap music" OR "hip hop") AND censorship

Boolean Searching 101

Databases like JSTOR, Academic Search Complete, and others, think in terms of Boolean logic.

Boolean connectors - words like AND, OR and NOT - are the words and symbols that glue our keywords together into a search that the database understands. 

Want to learn more about Boolean searching? Check out this great video from Pam Posz at Sacramento City College:

Boolean Operators

You can combine keywords using AND, OR, NOT:

AND gets more specific results because all the keywords must be in the same article. Some databases automatically insert AND between words, but it doesn't hurt for you to put it there. 

OR allows you to search for synonyms or word variations. Often there are other words that mean the same as your keyword. OR allows you to search for these variations all at one time. Adding OR into a search will cause you to find MORE results because OR specifies that either word must appear in the article. 

NOT eliminates unwanted words. This limits the number of irrelevant articles your search retrieves.