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Geography Subject Guide

An overview of the library resources and support for geography research.

Searching Strategies

These key concepts and strategies will help you when searching databases for research. 

Boolean operators form the basis of database logic. 

  • They connect keywords and subject headings together to narrow or broaden a search.
  • The three basic boolean operators are: AND, OR, NOT


AND tells a database that ALL search terms must be present in the results. Therefore, it narrows your results. An example would be artificial intelligence AND medicine AND ethics

Be aware that in some databases and search engines the AND is implied. Google Scholar automatically ANDs your search terms. 


OR connects two or more similar concepts, usually synonyms, and therefore broadens your search results. OR tells a database that ANY of your search terms can be present in your search results.

So if you were to search artificial intelligence OR medicine OR ethics, you would receive results on just artificial intelligence, medicine, or ethics. You may also receive results that are about all three concepts.


Not will:

  • exclude words from your search
  • narrow your search because it tells a database to ignore a concept
  • artificial intelligence NOT medicine
Venn diagram showcasing AND as a boolean operatorVenn diagram showcasing AND as a boolean operator

Search Order

  • Databases will usually recognize AND as the primary operator and will connect concept with AND together first.
  • If you are using a combination of AND and OR operators, enclose the words to be OR'ed together in parentheses. Example: artificial intelligence AND (medicine OR health sciences)

Truncation & Wildcards

Truncation will broaden your search because it includes various word endings and spellings. When consider truncation look for:

  • root words that have multiple endings. Example: mobility = mobilization, mobile, mobilize
  • Words that are spelled differently, but mean the same thing. Example: mobilization, mobilisation
  • The database Help section. Databases use different truncation/wildcards. It is important to use the correct symbol when truncating or using wildcards. Example: *, ?, !, #

Wildcards are similar to truncation, but wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word. Example: wom!m = women, woman