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Advanced Search Techniques


Phrase Searching

Searching by a particular phrase or word combination is one of the most precise ways of searching. This is done by putting a phrase or terms between quotation marks. For example, if you want to search a phrase like bending towards justice, search it as "bending toward justice" or, if you want to make sure the database searches political activism as a single term and not individual words, search "political activism."  

Sometimes it is unclear whether quotation marks are needed and sometimes using them can limit a search too much. For this reason, it can be a good idea to experiment by conducting searches with and without them.

Phrase Searching Examples

In this MLA International Bibliography search pictured below, it is not necessary to put the name Thomas Hardy in quotation marks because he is a known author and existing subject heading. However, it is necessary to put the words Victorian science in quotation marks in order for the search results to contain that exact phrase. 

This search includes the words and Boolean operators Thomas Hardy AND "Victorian science" OR darwinism. "Victorian science" is in quotation marks.

In the Jstor search pictured below, taxation without representation is put in quotes to search for that exact phrase. Sometimes, exact phrases return limited results, and adding more search terms reduces results too much. Adding American coloni* (using truncation to search for both colonist and colonies)  narrowed the search down too much. This is an example of how you sometimes need to experiment with the techniques.

This search has the phrase "taxation without representation" in quotation marks, the Boolean operator AND, the word American, and a truncated version of the word colony/colonist.