Advanced searching or "Boolean searching" in library databases

Mar 3, 2021 18:39 · 4762 words · 23 minute read

Hello everyone, this is Jeff from the library, and today we are going to talk about Boolean logic, or Boolean searching. When it comes to searching databases now some of you who have done research papers and used library databases have found it’s frustrating. Uh, the reason why in a lot of cases it doesn’t work the way Google works. It sort of does but look at this scary stuff. It looks so scary, you may have seen this before. In my experience, and in my opinion, in my career of working with databases, this is how databases like it when you talk to them.

You give them a lot of options. I know this looks scary. I’m just showing you a little picture of this first, then we’re going to go in and break this down. This is really in my opinion, and from what I’ve seen, this is the best way to get the best results from library databases. They like it when you talk to them in this kind of language. Now this, looks scary right? it’s not scary at all. It’s very, very, very, very, very basic. When we say Boolean, what we’re talking about, there was a mathematician in the 1800’s actually whose name was George Boole, and he came up with a system of logic in algebra that was based on, And, NOT, and Or.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about. Today I’ll show you a little breakdown of this before we go in. And it’s really, it’s really pretty basic. So a couple of things now. Some of this stuff we’ve adapted and added this later. Some of this comes from computer programming and this kind of stuff it’s, believe me, you don’t have to know any of that. You don’t, it’s really not scary. It looks scary, it looks technical, it’s just, it’s just a more effective way of running a database search really.

So first thing, I would talk about is the asterisk or the star. And this is known as truncation. What this basically does if you take a word like leader that has all these different versions of a leader, leaders, leadership, etc. If you put an asterisk at the end of leader, the database will look at that and say okay, any word with those letters, with any ending. So putting the asterisk there will get all of those endings. We’re going to cover all of this in the video when we get going.

The next thing we will talk about, uh might be OR. I may not cover this in the same version once I get going because it’s, it’s fun once you start searching databases to play with this stuff, and I might, I might start having fun and change the order a little bit. OR, so this would be if we’re not sure of the spelling of the word, or we’re not sure how it’s going to be in there, or we have different things we might be searching for. So I might search for Walmart or Wal-Mart spelled like that with dash in the middle, or “Wal Mart” in quotation marks.

We’ll talk about the quotation marks in a second, without a dash. It might be in there anyway and I want to get as many results as I can, okay, OR. Maybe I’m doing a paper like I’ll be looking at today on leadership. Search for a leader with an asterisk, or manage with an asterisk, or supervise with an asterisk. I want any version of any of those words. quotation marks - we want to get an exact phrase. Okay, I want to look for mountain lion. If I don’t put those quotation marks around it, what the database will search for, it’ll search for articles that have mountain and lion in it, and I’m not looking for articles that talk about a lion that was sighted near a mountain.

I want mountain lions, the kind of lions that we have in Colorado, where I live. Okay, very specific, only bring back the articles if these two words are exactly right together, together. That will cut down a lot for you. And the last thing we’ll look at is NOT. In most searching library databases you can change one of the boxes to NOT to say okay, I’m looking for articles with leadership in the title, but I don’t want articles on war or the military, which there probably will be some if we’re talking about leadership.

So I could eliminate, say NOT and then I wouldn’t see those in my search results. That can help a lot and. AND is the most basic one, but we’re not really going to talk about AND. You’ll notice AND is added automatically between the boxes, and by default, if you don’t change what you put in, AND is understood by default to be between the words. So in most library databases, you don’t need to type in AND. I, I rarely if ever use AND. So this is the one people always think of with Boolean anymore.

AND is really not needed. You can put it in there, it’s not going to hurt anything, but the database already by default is searching for that. All right, that’s a quick intro. Let’s get down to the fun. All right now, this where it gets fun. Let’s use these in a search. I hope you’re still with me. I know that was a lot of jargon and a lot of stuff. So if someone says Boolean logic, that’s what they’re talking about. We have been tasked by our class, we have an assignment to write a paper on leadership theories and how they affect business in the real world.

Okay, so first thing I’m going to do, don’t type in a sentence. Do not type this in - leadership theories and how they affect business in the real…

05:03 - no, don’t do that. This is the biggest mistake you make with a library database. Google might be able to search like that, library databases will just say huh?! they might find something, but if you ran a search on that, you probably, you’d find a few things but it’s really going to be unfocused, and okay two results. Wow, and see, I, all the time students contact me and say oh I can’t find anything. It doesn’t, that’s not how they work. Let’s start this search over and let’s do it the way that it really should work.

Okay, always type in things very simply into library databases. Okay here we go. Leadership, just show me articles on leadership. Now by the way, I have this set to just look at peer-reviewed articles all right? just going to look at leadership. A search here. Okay this is what we want to see, 435,218. Now don’t let that scare you. I mean if you ran a search in Google, you’d find 400 million things and it wouldn’t scare you. You would just start looking for things that were really relevant to you.

There’s this misunderstanding that you need to narrow it down to only five articles. You can do that and I’m going to show you how to do that, but don’t, that’s great that we found that many articles. I want to find more. I want to find as many articles as I can find before I start narrowing things down because I’m going to miss a lot if I just do this. Okay, so just make sure, okay, again remind you that peer-reviewed limiter is on all right? Okay, now the first thing, let’s talk about first.

The asterisk, we want to find any version. Right now I’m just searching for leadership. So that means I’m missing out on articles on leader, on leaders, and that, there could be some great stuff in there. So what I’m going to do, the spelling would change after the R right? leadership, leader, leaders, they all have that in common right there. So what I’m going to do, I’m going to take this back. I’m going to add an asterisk. Okay, we have 435,218 articles now.

Let’s see what happens if we add that asterisk or that star, it’s shift 8 on your keyboard. Hey, look at that, it almost doubled. This happened. Look at that, an approach to developing good leaders. That’s going to be a great article that I would have completely missed out on. So all of the time students contact me and say I can’t find anything on my topic, a lot of times, at an asterisk, that almost doubled our results. We had 435,000, now we have 755,000 something right? 755,725.

Okay, so look at that that simple little thing increased it so much. All right, now let’s get a little more specific here. As you know, there’s different types of leadership right? there’s, if you’re in a business class that’s talking about this, you’ve got authentic leadership, charismatic leadership, transformational leadership, servant leadership, all these different types of different… strategic leadership. So let’s try here, let’s type in authentic leader.

I’m going to leave that right there because I’d like to see authentic leader as well or authentic leaders, not just authentic leadership. And the nice thing with that asterisk, it’ll find all of them. Okay, let’s run a search, here we will see less results. Now when we hit this, that’s a big misunderstanding too, when you add terms and you make it more specific, it’s going to find less generally speaking. So we got 755,725. Let’s run a search here and see what happens.

All right, look at that now. we’re down to 3,917. That cut it down a lot. So if you do want to cut it down to not so many articles, that’s very easy to do, by adding a few terms. Okay, now let’s do something else here before I forget. We’ve got a date limiter over here. These articles are going all the way back to 1925. That’s probably, for your paper, going to be too far if you’re looking for a paper that’s looking at just current research. If you want to look at some historical research, you could do that but what I’m going to do here, I’m going to type in this from box, I’m going to type 2017 so I can just get 2017 to 2021.

Then I’m going to hit enter on my keyboard, and this limit should hold. This should stay in there for the rest of our search. Okay, now notice, I keep my eye on this now. That that changed, that, right now we have only 1,410 articles because we took a lot of those older articles out. Okay, let’s talk about the next thing. I think this is the next on my list. If not, I’m going to jump to it. nope, I’m going to skip over OR for right now. Let’s look at quotation marks.

All right, this tells me I want this exact phrase. Right now what this is doing really, what this is really doing behind the scenes is this. Authentic and leader. It’s adding that by default. That’s why you never really have to use AND in here. You can, but it’s not going to really do much. Okay I don’t want authentic AND any version of the word leader. I want authentic leader, authentic leaders, authentic leadership, I want that exact phrase. Okay, let’s do this little magical thing.

I’m going to add quotation marks around that. I’m going to build a little cage around this. I only want to see this, we have 1,410 articles, let’s hit the search.

10:37 - Okay, 1,410 became 811. That cut a lot of them off. Now look at this, now we’re getting some very specific articles. And look at that, right together, authentic leadership. It’s always right together. Okay, and that’s great. I wonder how many of those… here’s another neat little limiter. We could do select a field. How many of these might have some version of authentic leader in the title? So here, select a field, it’s just kind of searching all the general areas of this article.

Let’s say TI Title. Now it’s only going to search the titles of the articles, to make sure, we have 811, to make sure that it’s really about that. That just about cut it in half, 478. Okay, authentically, authentic leadership theory, the case for and against, that would be an excellent article. Okay, but I’m not sure what I want to write about right now because there’s a lot of different styles of leadership. I might want to write about a different type of leadership.

How about, here’s where we’re going to talk about OR. Okay, I haven’t really committed to authentic leadership, I want to see what’s out there, and I would highly recommend before you commit to a topic, search around and see what’s out there first. Okay, so now I’m going to try the OR. So I want authentic leadership. How about also charismatic leadership? OR, you can see in my little thing there, I’ve already done this search before. Charismatic leader.

I’m going to quiz you here. What should I put there to get every version of the word? I’m going to pause a second. Who knows the answer? that’s right, asterisk. And I’m also going to put this in quotation marks. I want authentic leader or charismatic leader, still has to be in the title. We have 478 articles.

12:27 - Look at that. We have 592, we have a lot more articles now. This is another thing. people say, “well I can’t find anything. ” You’re not giving it enough options. You need to say OR. Okay, how about servant leader? you can see I’m taking the suspense away. I’ve already done this search, I tested this out before I did this. Servant leader, asterisk, shift 8 on your keyboard. Okay, quotation mark. So I’ve got three exact phrases, I’m giving it the option.

Any version of that, of authentic leader, any version of charismatic leader, OR a servant leader see? Or, Or, Or this, Or that, Or that. We’re going to run the search now.

13:10 - Okay, now we have 1,228. Now this one is a home run. Look at that, looking at the different all the different types of leaders there. Hey, transformational. We should add that too, but look at this. We’ve got all these there. We’ve go charismatic leadership because I’m telling it OR, OR. There we go, servant leadership. See, it’s not just looking for one thing now, it’s looking for any of those things. And they don’t all, those are not ANDS. Those don’t all have to be in there.

In that first one, this was great because they’re all in there but the OR says, okay, if it just covers charismatic leadership that’s fine too. If it just covers authentic leadership, that’s fine too. If it just covers servant leadership, that’s fine too. Because I don’t know what I want to write about right now, and I want to look at everything. This is the way that I do searches. Maybe it’s a little bit overkill for you, but I’m going to keep going here.

OR transformational leader. And as you noticed, I can do as many ORs as I want. Okay, transformational leader. Let’s add another one. OR transactional leader, asterisk. Look at all these ORs I have. I’m giving it so many options because I don’t really know what I want to write about. So it sounds so scary when people say Boolean logic. It’s really, it’s really pretty, pretty basic. And it’s, it’s easy, and it’s, it’s easier for the database to understand you.

This is how it likes to be talked to. Okay, all right now. We’ve got all these great articles, 2,771, that all have one of these leaders, leadership, all these different things. One or another, it could be more than one of those in an article. I really like the look of that one right there, but what, what I want to do, I want to get more specific now. Okay, because my, my assignment is to write a paper to see what kind of effects these types of leadership have in the real world.

Okay, let’s go here now. I’m going to go to the second box. This is why we have more than one box here. Okay this has all my leadership stuff here. When I write something new, now I don’t want to mess this up. I’ve got this OR that OR that OR that. When I go on to looking at the effects, that’s a different topic now, and that’s a really cool thing you can do that’s hard to do in Google for example. Now I can mix another search into this search. I can search within these articles.

Okay, let me type this in, effect, what kind of effect is this having? okay, look at that now. Effect is coming up. That’s nice now. What do you think I’m going, now I, what about effective, effect, effective, affected? well, actually, that’s a different spelling. We’ll get to that, yes I heard someone at the back of the room raise their hand and say this. Let’s add an asterisk. okay, we’ve got 1,227. Let’s add an asterisk there.

16:16 - It’s spinning its wheels, look at that. I think it added about 300 to the search. So if you talk to the databases this way, it’s really easy to find a lot of articles. The biggest problem is people are trying to talk to it just by typing in sentences. Do you see how easy this is? and I’m able, I’m basically commanding this database to bring me back what I want. Okay, so and just adding that asterisk added 300 articles I wasn’t seeing before. Now you probably know, there’s different spellings of that word effect.

If, if something has an effect, if it’s a noun, an effect has happened, it’s spelled with an E. If it’s going to affect something as a verb, it’s going to affect something as a verb, I said that twice I know, because it’s a really confusing thing, then it’s spelled with an a. I want to see those two, how is it going to affect an organization, OR effect. Okay, and let’s just let’s just cut to the chase and put an asterisk there as well. I use asterisks all the time.

We got 1,501 here. When we add the affect, okay, that added about 136 articles to our results. So I am controlling what this database gives to me. I’m not just typing in a bunch of words and hoping for the best. You see, I’m in the driver’s seat here. I’m the boss. This database is great but this is, this is a repository of millions of articles. You have to drive very specifically to tell it what you want and it’s great. Now, I’m not sure what I want to write about.

Now there’s a lot of other things I could put in here. Okay, and I can put in as many ORs as I want. How about or performance? how does it, how does it affect performance? we have 1,637. And now we have 1,820, about, that added about 200. Do you see how I am completely controlling what it gives me? performance OR outcome.

18:19 - Now you’re probably saying, how come you’re not adding asterisks? I could, I could, but at this point I have so many articles I’m just having fun. I’m just having fun. Okay, how about engagement? employee engagement. And this one, I am or engage, engage, engaged, engagement. Show me those articles.

18:47 - it’s going, okay 1,989. This is great, isn’t this fun? see, I’m having fun with this. This is not a struggle with the database if you know how to do this. It’s fun. All right, I, believe me, you try this, and I know you think, “Oh yeah, you’re just saying that. ” It’s actually pretty fun once you drive a database like this. It’s like driving a car. If you know how to do it, it’s pretty fun. It’s, it’s not scary. okay, engage, okay or how about employee satisfaction? now, yeah, I mean we could do, if we wanted to do, satisfied, satisfies.

We could do an asterisk right. There I’m going to look for satisfaction. I’m kind of looking for like employee, maybe customer satisfaction. And I just keep running these new searches, and I keep I can do as many ORs as I want in these boxes. Okay, okay, so this is looking great. I have over 2,000 articles. Let’s put these, now we could also limit this to subject. But I usually, if I have this many articles coming back, I’m going to put this in the title.

That’s just kind of my go-to. it’s the most specific way. So we’ve got all these ORs up here, all these ORs and it’s really, you see how easy this is? it just, it just keeps evolving. My search is a living, evolving thing. Now we have 973, and look at these great articles. Job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Effect in the transformational leadership towards employee performance. BINGO! these are great, these are great.

20:24 - effects of charismatic leadership rewards and individual performance. This is really getting fun. All right, now let’s talk about the next thing. Let’s talk about NOT. Let’s say there’s some things I don’t want to see in my results. Okay, there are, uh, there’s a lot of publishing in the healthcare industry. There are a lot of peer-reviewed articles published in the healthcare industry, and that’s great if that’s what you’re looking for. But maybe you’re not really going to write about healthcare.

This is for, my search, let’s say I’m not really interested in that. There’s, if I was in a healthcare, healthcare administration class, I certainly would be looking for it. But let’s just say hypothetically I’m not. Obviously this one is on patient safety. This is from Nursing Outlook. So this is, this is with a focus on nursing. Let’s talk about NOT now. Let me show you my little handout. NOT we’re going to exclude this term from my search. In this example, we had leadership but I’m not looking for articles on war and military.

This will find articles on leadership but not as they relate to war or military, because I’m mostly focused on business. Okay, so here I’m going to do this NOT and I always leave this as my last box. I always have the NOT box as my last box. I find it works much better. I don’t put the NOT box in here and then try to add things. It seems to me, I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me it works best if the last box is the NOT box. Okay, so NOT.

22:01 - 973. It’s kind of fun to see how many it’s going to remove. So now we’re going to go the other way. Okay, it removed 37 articles from my search results that I’m not going to have to look at now. Okay, because I’m not really interested in articles on patients. Okay, now we can use OR here. NOT this OR this. NOT patient OR nursing. We have 940 articles. take out the nursing articles. Let’s see how many we get - 911. Okay, that took out, what was that? 29 articles.

Okay now, well there’s a lot of different versions of the word nursing. There’s nurse, nurses, nursing. Okay, what do, I do, the same rule can apply to NOT and with ORs of course. What do I do here? think about it. Someone help me out. Don’t leave me alone here. What do I need to do to nurse to get every version of that word? think about. It I’m going to give you a second. That’s right, I heard someone say it right there. BINGO! this will get rid of nurse, nurses, nursing.

Okay, we have 911. It’ll probably take out more now. And again, I’m going the opposite direction. I’m telling it what to take out of my search. okay, here we go.

23:28 - Now we’re down to 901. Didn’t take out a ton, but it took out about 10 more. Let’s do this. Or how about healthcare? I don’t want to see any articles on healthcare. NOT patient OR nurse. So I’m taking out all the different versions of how it’s going to be in here. It’s not necessarily a needed thing to do, but I, I often use NOT. I use NOT on almost every search that I do. Okay, now it’s really taking out a lot. That took off probably 35 or 40 articles, and we could keep going with this if we want, but I think we’ve got some great articles here.

We’ve got 874 articles. They’re really, really, really focused on what we’re doing. Um, really, and, and I could really, so now if I wanted to, I could start making some other choices. Well I have so many to look at, I could get more specific now. I could change this. You don’t have to stick with this search once you get it. Let’s say uh, let’s get rid of then the OR transactional leader OR transformational leader. I don’t really need those. Let me just look at those first three types of leaders that I put up there.

Servant leader, charismatic leader, authentic leader. And this should get smaller now because now I’m not saying OR transformational leader OR transactional leader. I’m starting to remove some terms here. 874, now we’re down to 343. Isn’t that great? isn’t this fun? see, this becomes fun. I love searching in databases because I talk to them the way they want to be talked to. Once you know the language they like, it is fun and it’s not a struggle at all.

It’s fun and it’s creative. Okay, authentic leader, charismatic leader, servant leader. I want to get a little more specific here. I kind of have heard a lot of often about authentic leader. This sounds interesting to me. Charismatic leader OR servant leader. Let me get rid of authentic leader, there we go. Let’s see, it’s kind of like a slot machine. 343 articles. Now we’re down to 207 articles. I could do the thing, I could do the same thing up here.

Let me get rid of, let’s see, see I have some, let me get rid of all this stuff.

25:50 - just show me charismatic leader as it relates to performance, both in the title.

26:00 - now we’re down to 41 articles. So you can get as specific as you want, and at any point you can change your mind. OR outcome, you can change your mind, you can put things back in there. You’re not going to break anything with these. If worst comes to worse, you end up with 50 articles, worst comes, or worse, and you totally mess up your search, and you’re just too confused here. Just click here new search and start over. And it’ll clear this out and you’ll start from scratch.

So that’s my quick introduction to Boolean searching. It’s really very easy when you look at, when you look at the end result, you think, “oh that looks so scary. ” But it’s not. IT’s really easy. It’s just giving the database a lot of options to search on and it’s talking to library databases the way they like to be talked to, and they are really nice to you if you talk to them the way they like to be talked to. It’ll be a struggle if you’re trying to type in full sentences here.

And you’re trying to force it to work like Google. It sort of works like Google but it’s kind of different. So it’s really simple and it makes your database research a lot more fun. That’s all I have for you. As always, any questions please send them my way and I’ll do my best to help you. Thanks a lot for watching and listening. .