HeinOnline's Tip of the Week: Searching and Using Boolean Operators

Searching, Tips and Tricks
HeinOnline Blogger

Using the One-box and Advanced Search options:

When forming a search query using the One-box and Advanced Search options, you must use Boolean Operators (AND, +, OR, NOT, -) to combine multiple terms and you must capitalize the operators. Additionally, quotations are important when searching for a phrase or multiple phrases. Below are a few tips for building search queries using the Advanced and One-box search options.

Tip #1 – Boolean Operators must be all CAPITALS.
Use AND vs. and, OR vs. or, NOT vs. not. Using lower case operators can greatly impact the quantity and quality of your search results. Example: Input the following search query using the Advanced Search option within the Journals library:

text:”power imbalance” or “power balance in mediation” (choose all titles and leave section types checked to default options)

The quantity of results received is greater than 877,000. Now, modify the above search query to contain OR (in CAPITAL letters) and resubmit the query. The quantity of results received is 1,777.

Tip #2 – A phrase must be enclosed with “quotation marks”.
When building a search query, use quotations around a phrase to ensure that the query searches the specified field for the entire phrase and to ensure that your results include documents containing the entire phrase.

In the absence of quotation marks, the field is only valid for the term that it directly precedes. Let’s use an example in the Journals library to explore this concept. Input the following query in the Advanced Search options in the Journals library:

title:criminal injuries compensation (choose all titles and leave section types checked to default options)

This search query will only find “criminal” in the Title field. It will find “injuries” and “compensation” in the default field (which in the Journals library is set to the text field), thus resulting in over 320,000 results. NOTE: The default field for each library is specified under “Search Tips” found on the Advanced Search screen. Changing this query to title”criminal injuries compensation” will return only 16 results, which include only titles that contain the full phrase.

The above tips are applicable when building a search query in the One-box or Advanced Search options. These techniques do not apply to Field Searches. A Field Search is meant to build the search syntax for you based on the options you input into a user-friendly form. When building a search in the Field Search option, you choose either word or phrase, thus eliminating the need for quotations. You also choose the search fields and an operator (AND/OR) from a drop down menu. If you are not familiar with complex search syntax and search fields, construct a Field Search via the user-friendly form, and the system will build the search syntax for you.

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