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Help, Guides and Instructions: Effective Searching

This Research Guide helps patrons of the NWC Library make the most of their library experience by introducing important electronic resources and collections available to them. It serves as a starting place to learn how to use the library online search too

Effective Searching

Keyword Searching

Search electronic resources using keywords or keyword phrases, not full sentences. Keywords are words or phrases used to find relevant content in a database. Usually, keywords are nouns or noun phrases. Avoid searching using short or insignificant words such as the, in, to, or he that have no specific meaning.


 Boolean Operators AND, OR, NOT (AND NOT) 


Keywords may be combined using Boolean operators. The most commonly used Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT (sometimes also seen as AND NOT). The use of these operators between keywords controls the way the search terms are combined and instructs the computer to search for keywords in a particular combination.


1)  A AND B  


2) A OR B  

   Query:  I’m looking for an article about leadership in the Navy

   i.e. The article must contain the word leadership and the word navy

   Search: Leadership AND Navy

3) NOT B

   Query: I’m looking for an article about leadership or Naval officers. 

   i.e. The article must contain the word leadership or the term Naval officers.

   Search: Leadership OR Naval Officers

   Query: I’m looking for an article about leadership but am not interested in anything pertaining to the Army. 

   i.e. The article must have the word leadership but must not contain the word Army.

   Search: Leadership NOT Army

NOTE:  Some electronic resources use the term AND NOT instead of NOT. The two terms perform the same function.


Phrase Searching

In general, phrases of two or more words are placed in quotation marks (“ ”).


  • “Electronic Warfare”
  • “Iraqi Freedom”
  • “Operation Iraqi Freedom”
  • “Combat Search and Rescue”
  • “Command and Control”
  • “Naval War College”


Proximity Operators

Use proximity operators if allowed (check the database Help menu). They instruct the computer to search for words or phrases that are close to one another in any order.

keyword A  w/n  keyword B


This command tells the computer to find keyword A within n number of words of keyword B in any order.

Example:  State Department w/5 report

Will Retrieve: The State Department Report

                       The State Department issued a Report

                       The Report promulgated by the State Department

(Will NOT Retrieve: The Report that was circulated by the Section Chief at the State Department) 



In most cases, the truncation sign is an asterisk (*). In the Lexis-Nexis database, however, the truncation sign is an exclamation point (!). If a keyword is truncated, the computer searches for the root of that keyword with all variant endings.

Examples:   nav*  finds:  navy, navy’s, navies, and naval (as well as navigation)

                    comput*  finds:  compute, computer, computers, computational, computing and computerization

Effective Search Overview