Strategies for Studying, Learning, and Researching

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Boolean Operators in Search Phrases

What are Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators are Search operators, which are words and symbols that provide instructions for a search engine, on how to direct a search.  For example, search operators can tell the search engine to exclude certain webpages, or to include webpages with specific phrases.

Search operators can be manually inserted directly into a search phrase, which I will discuss in this section.  However, they can also be generated with the advanced search functions that are available in many search engines, which I will discuss in the next chapter.

From a technical perspective, Boolean operators, resemble certain mathematical concepts from set theory.  However, the symbols used in set theory are different from the words and symbols used with search engines, but many of the concepts are the same.  For example, when you create a search phrase you are essentially defining a set of webpages, which have the information you need.  Boolean operators are used to define the set of webpages more precisely.

A domain that has a number of webpages and/or several subdomains can also be defined as a set, such as www.TechForText.com.  Sometimes web-based searches involve defining a subset.  A subset of the above can be defined as

site:TechForText.com Trigonometry  This subset has 36 entries, with the word trigonometry, based on a Google search, performed on 3/5/2014.  Left click on the blue underlined words to see the search results, from Google.

If you want more information about set theory and Web searches see the following: Using a Search Engine -- Set Theory for Beginners, URL: http://goo.gl/ndRDtW

The Practical Application of Search Operators

What are the Most Useful Search Operators?

I have found that the most useful search operators are quotation marks, “ ”, OR, AND, the asterisk *, and site:.  I will explain how to use these operators under the following subheadings, with examples.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Most of the examples in this section involve search phrases, with specific operators.  I tested these phrases with Google, and the number of search results I obtained is indicated for each example.  You can repeat these searches by left clicking on the blue underlined text next to each example.  The number of search results you get, will probably not be the same as the number I obtained, when I tested these phrases.  This is because Google constantly updates its databases.

The Use of Quotation Marks In Search Phrases

I have found the following technique very useful, and it involves creating search phrases with quotation marks.  Specifically, quotation marks on a search phrase will increase the selectivity of the search results.  That is, with this technique you can increase the focus of your search, and eliminate unwanted search results.  However, it can be somewhat of a challenge to figure out precisely where to place the quotation marks on a specific search phrase.      The following explanations involve hyperlinks to Google search pages.  To activate a hyperlink left click on the blue underlined text.  If a link fails access www.Google.com directly, and entered the indicated search phrase into the Google’s search box.

To explain how to increase the effectiveness of a search, with quotation marks, I will use Google, with the following search phrase: Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean.  The results I obtained with various arrangements of quotation marks are presented below:

Without quotation marks I obtained approximately 1,900,000 results.  Without quotation marks on a phrase, the search results can include any web-based document that has all the words in the search phrase regardless of their sequence.

When the Entire phrase was placed in quotation marks, such as: Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean Google indicated: 1,350,000 results.  This was followed by: No results found for “Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean”.  Quotation marks on a long search phrase can make the search excessively selective, which can result in no search results.

When I used two sets of quotation marks I obtained approximately 506,000 results. Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean

When I use three sets of quotation marks I obtained approximately 964 results. Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic OceanThis last example is the ideal, with this search phrase.

The idea here is to place quotation marks on two or more words that are important for your search.  With the above example, the important word combinations are Scientific studies, deep-sea animals, and Atlantic Ocean.

Do NOT place words that are unimportant for your search in quotation marks.  With the search phrase used above as an example, the unimportant words are of, in, and the.  Thus, with this example, all of the following are INCORRECT:

Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean

Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean

Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean

To develop insight and skills using quotation marks carry out your own experiments with various search phrases, and quotation marks.  Keep in mind that web searching is a trial and error process, especially when quotation marks are used.

The Use of OR In Search Phrases

The use of a capitalized OR in a search phrase is useful in the situations described below.  When using this operator, it might also be necessary to use quotation marks.  You must properly place the quotation marks, and the OR, on the words comprising your search phrase.  This will be explained in the following paragraphs, with examples.

OR is useful when the same concept might be described with different words, such as: albino lions OR white lions This search phrase worked well with Google, and it produced approximately 808,000 results.  I repeated this search with Google Images (www.Google.com/imghp).  This resulted in a search page with photographs of dozens of white lions.

It is possible to get similar results as the above, by conducting two searches, one with “albino lions and the other with white lions, without using OR.  With the search phrase albino lions I obtained approximately 17,600 results.  With the search phrase white lionsI obtained approximately 792,000 results.  This totals to 809,600, which is not much different than the 808,000 results I obtained with the search phrase: “albino lions OR white lions”

OR can be useful, in a search phrase, when you want to find information that relates to two or more localities.  For example, with the following search the localities are Atlantic and Indian oceans: “Scientific studies ” of “deep-sea animals” in the “Atlantic Ocean” OR “Indian Ocean.

In some cases, you might get more results by carrying out two separate searches, without the OR.  When I conducted one search for the Atlantic Ocean and another for the Indian Ocean, I obtained a total of 1657 results, from the two searches.  This is more than I obtained with OR, with one search.  This involved the following search phrases:

Scientific studies ” of deep-sea animals in the Atlantic Ocean  With Google I obtained 966 results.

Scientific studies of deep-sea animals in the Indian Ocean  With Google I obtained 691 results.

The Use of AND in Search Phrases

If you want to find web-based documents that contain two or more concepts, words, or items on a page, use the AND.  For example, with the search phrase cats AND dogs, webpages that have only the word cats or only the word dogs, will NOT appear in the search results.  Only webpages that have both of the words: cats and dogs will appear in the search results.  When I tested the search phrase cats AND dogs with Google I obtained approximately 198,000,000 results.  I repeated this test with Google Images (at www.Google.com/imghp), and a webpage was displayed with dozens of photographs, which had at least one cat and one dog in most of the pictures.

Using the Asterisk * for Unknowns in Search Phrases

When you are not certain of the correct words for an effective search phrase, you can use asterisks, which are symbolized as *. The examples presented below will clarify the utility of this search operator.

When the following search phrase was used with Google without an asterisk *, it resulted in 117,000 results. “Techniques for” “improving study skills”.

Most of the results, with the above search phrase, appear to be relevant.  However, replacing the word techniques with an asterisk * might be useful in this case.  With the above search phrase, the websites that do not have the word techniques, will not be displayed on the search page.  Keep in mind, that many words are approximately equivalent to techniques, in terms of search criteria.  Examples are method, strategies, tips, or even websites, books, or courses.  By using an asterisk *, instead of the word: technique, there should be MORE results, as indicated below:

“* for” “improving study skills” The Google search page indicated 1,420,000 results.

I repeated the above search, without the asterisk * and without the word technique.  I did this to determine if the asterisk was really doing anything.

“ for” “improving study skills” Google search page indicated only 251,000 results.  This is much less than the 1,420,000 with the asterisk *.

Search Phrases with Site: to Focus on a Specific Domain

When you want to search for information from a specific website domain, use the word site with a colon, with Google.  For example, if I wanted to search www.TechForText.com for information on calculus, I would create the following:

site:TechForText.com calculus  With this search phrase, Google’s search page indicated 56 results, from the domain www.TechForText.com

There are Many Search Operators

In the preceding paragraphs, I presented only five search operators.  However, there are many other search operators, which are useful with Google, and other search engines.  If you are interested in these operators and related information, see the websites listed below:

Words on website: Search Strategies URL is

www.bcps.org/offices/lis/models/tips/searchstrategies.html

Words on website: Search Tools - Advanced Features URL is

Words on website: Basic Search Tips and Advanced Boolean Explained URL is http://goo.gl/ecavR

Words on website: Guides — Using Search Operators in Justis, URL is www.justis.com/support/guide-operators-jcom.aspx

Words on website: Bing Help Home > Advanced search keywords URL is

From Other Authors: Additional and Supporting Information, and Alternative Perspectives, for Chapter 2

Instructions

If you want more information, alternative perspectives or explanations, see the following websites and videos from other authors.  To access this material left click on the blue links, or the URLs presented below.

If a link fails, enter the indicated search phrase or the *words that are displayed from the website, into the search engine presented on the left of each entry.  *Note the words from the website are indicated with Words on website:  If you examine the following entries all of the above will be clarified.

www.Google.com Words on website: Boolean operators and truncation URL is http://libguides.tru.ca/content.php?pid=83262

Research Tips and Techniques URL is www.searchingspot.com/techniques.htm

www.Google.com Words on website: Google Algorithm and Axiomatic Set Theory, URL is http://goo.gl/W3jz2A

www.Google.com Search phrase: "Boolean operators” and “Web searching" This is a Google search page, which indicates 6,460 results.

www.Google.com Words on website: Basic Search Tips and Advanced Boolean Explained URL is http://goo.gl/ecavR

www.Google.com Words on website: Web Searching Strategies,

Google Search: Words on website: Google Search: The Asterisk Wildcard and Punctuation URL is http://goo.gl/dzS0h2

Videos from Other Authors, to Supplement Chapter 2

When you left click on a link for a video, a webpage will open, and the video will start automatically in most cases.  The webpage that opens with the video will usually have 10 or more RELEVANT videos.  If the video does not start automatically, and the webpage opens, left click on the link provided by the author of the video.  This link is usually in the center of the screen.

www.Video.Google.com Words on website: CINAHL Databases - Advanced Searching Tutorial, URL is http://youtu.be/0QjtxVVsKqA

www.Video.Google.com Search phrase: “Boolean operators” and “Web searching” This is a Google video search page, which indicates 92 results.

www.Video.Google.com Words on website: Effective Web Searching

www.Video.Google.com Words on website: Searching The Internet - A Primer URL is http://youtu.be/FtzDWePs47k

www.Video.Google.com Words on website: Library Database Searching Techniques URL is http://youtu.be/1By32B1MTLg

www.Video.Google.com Words on website: How to be a Google Expert, URL is http://youtu.be/GEq3M_Dqk5o

To go to the first page of this

Chapter left click on these words.

Boolean Operators in Search Phrases

What are Boolean Operators

The Practical Application of Search Operators

What are the Most Useful Search Operators?

The Use of Quotation Marks In Search Phrases

The Use of OR In Search Phrases

The Use of AND in Search Phrases

Using the Asterisk * for Unknowns in Search Phrases

Search Phrases with Site: to Focus on a Specific Domain

There are Many Search Operators

From Other Authors: Additional and Supporting Information, and Alternative Perspectives, for Chapter 2

Instructions

Webpages from Other Authors to Supplement Chapter 2

Videos from Other Authors, to Supplement Chapter 2

To go to the first page of this

Chapter, left click on these words.

If you want to go to the next chapter

left click on the link below

www.TechForText.com/SL/Chapter-3

If you want to see a list of all

the chapters in this e-book go to

www.TechForText.com/SL