Skip to main content

Information Retrieval: Search techniques

Consider these

  • Do I use a single or multiple search terms?
  • How do I combine them?
  • Do I wish to exclude a search term?
  • Are there different spellings to the search terms?

Exact search

  • use when a concept is described by two or more words; these include (but are not limited to) names and subject headings
  • quotation marks or in some databases in drop-down menus as "phrase search" or "search as phrase"
  • must be in the given order and exactly as written
  • e.g. "University of the Arts", "choir singing"


  • replaces on or more letters at the end of a word
  • usually * (asterisk) or ? (question mark)
  • in some databases can be used in the beginning or middle of the word
  • not used in all databases
  • useful when searching for concepts that have different spellings
  • e.g. conduct* = conduct, conducting, conduction, conductor, conductors; *aikovsk* = Tsaikovski, Chaikovsky

Combining search terms

The most simple search sentences consist of two search terms.


OR operator expands the search by using alternative, synonymous or similar terms.


AND operator

AND operator limits the results. It's useful when combining concepts from different subjects.


NOT operator

NOT operator limits the results. It excludes results that include a specified term - use with caution!

Combining topics

If you want to include several operators into a search sentence, use brackets to separate them. In most databases a long search sentence can be written in advanced search without the need to use Boolean operators.


advanced use of Boolean operators

Limiting the results

In most databases it is possible to limit or narrow the results by content type, publication date, language etc.

An example of limiting search results in Arsca:

limit the results

Saavutettavuusseloste | Accessibility statement