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Finding & Evaluating Information on the Internet: Search Techniques

Searching, keywords, Boolean logic, evaluating sources


Keywords are words or phrases that best describe the information you want. They are the most essential parts of the question! Keywords are used for search engines on both the subscription electronic resources at ACC and the web.

magnetic poetry by surrealmuse

Pick the most basic words that define your topic. In general, don't type normal sentences in search engines; just use the keywords.


What are the causes of diabetes in children?

diabetes AND children AND causes

Other Techniques

Wait, there's more. Try the following techniques to make your searches even more dynamic!

Phrase Searches

Often keywords are more than one word. Most search engines let you put quotation marks around these so only results with the exact phrase are listed.

"rap music"

"cell phone"


Shortening a keyword to its basic root and adding a special character (usually an asterisk "*" or "?") at the end will tell the computer to search for variations on the word.

Searching for politic* will find:


Note: Check the search engine help screens to see if this can be done.  It's most common on subscription databases.


Combines concepts and techniques. The search engine will search for what's grouped or nested inside the parentheses first.

("rap music" OR "hip hop") AND censorship

Boolean Operators

You can combine keywords using AND, OR, NOT:

AND gets more specific results because all the words must be on a web page. Some search engines (like Google) automatically insert AND between words, but it doesn't hurt for you to put it there.

OR allows you to search for synonyms or word variations in one search. Often there are other words that mean the same as your keyword. OR searchers for these variations at the same time.

NOT eliminates unwanted words. This prevents useless sites from showing in your searches.


Boolean Operators: the movie!

To learn more watch this video from emilyatchemlib:

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