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Research Process


Many students struggle with finding too much irrelevant information when they search. This is because technology is literal. Only the words you type are searched following the default directions. Therefore you need to give the search technology better directions in order to help it understand how to provide you with better results. 

Using And / Or / Not

Search technologies use a specific set of commands to interpret what you type. When you know what they are and how they work in the context of search you can use them to your advantage. 


By default, a database searches for your words using the word "and". This means that both words must be present in the same item. So if you were looking for a pizza with pepperoni AND mushrooms, you would not want one with only pepperoni or only mushrooms. Both ingredients must be on the pizza.


The word "or" is used to tell the database that as long as one of your words show up, you would like to see it. If you wanted a pizza with pepperoni OR mushrooms, you would be given all the options that have either pepperoni or mushrooms, including those that have both pepperoni and mushrooms.


You can use the word NOT to tell the database that you want certain things but not other things. If you would be happy with pepperoni OR mushrooms on your pizza but olives gross you out, you can tell the database not to include them with NOT. 

Using Quotation Marks

One way you can help them understand you is to use quotation marks in your search to ensure the database or search engine looks for those words together as a phrase. Be on the lookout for words that provide a specific meaning the word it comes before to after.

This table provides examples of words with multiple contexts and how you can use that information to change your search.
Words with Multiple Contexts Words that Describe Previous Word Type in search box, In quotes
school high, elementary, charter "charter school"
games Olympic, video, board "video games"
tiger cat, Woods, king, Detroit "Tiger Woods"


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