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Database search tip: Home

When using databases you will find that the majority of them use the following search methods:


Boolean Logic

Boolean Logic allows the user to combine and exclude search terms e.g.

  • systems performance AND efficiency (this combines your search terms)
  • power NOT nuclear (this excludes “nuclear” from the search)
  • loads OR stress (this searches for both search terms separately)

It is useful to use Boolean logic as you can refine your search easily and locate relevant articles quickly. You may notice that if you use the advanced search option on some databases it allows you to select AND, OR and NOT to combine your search terms.



Wildcards (?) are used to replace a letter from a word. By replacing the letter with a ? you are then asking the database to search for words with different spellings, e.g. American English or UK English.

Examples include stabili?ation which would retrieve results that include the word stabilization or stabilisation depending upon how it was spelt.

Truncations and Wildcards can sometimes vary between different databases so it is worthwhile checking out the help section.



Using truncation allows the user to retrieve more results from a single word search.

Searching for "Engineering" will retrieve all articles that have word "Engineering" within the title, keywords or abstract.

However if you search for Engineer* you will retrieve articles that include the words Engineering, Engineered, Engineers etc so you are searching for different endings of the same word. It’s a useful way to locate a wider range of articles.

It is always worthwhile checking out each database as it may have a search method that is unique. Use the help facilities and carry out your search using the basic and advanced search options to see how your results differ and which option is the most effective.

Adapted through our affiliated UK University, University of Manchester, JRUL, 2012 with slight changes.