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Find Research Guides by Subject

What's in this Guide?

Use this guide to help you refine your search techniques to find the best research material. If you are interested in research techniques related to a specific subject, look up your subject in the search box above to see related library research guides.

Find more information on:

How to Search for Articles

Advanced Search Techniques

Boolean operators and truncation

Boolean Searching is a database search method based on the principles of Boolean logic, originally developed by the British mathematician George Boole in the mid 19th century. Boolean searching allows you to combine search terms in specific ways for effective matches.





Document must have both words (or both phrases)
copyright AND moral rights Will narrow your search because search results will include all documents that contain both the first term and the second term.

Document can have either word (or either phrase)

tobacco OR cigarettes Will expand your search because search results will include all documents that contain either the first term or the second term or both.

Document must have first term. Must not have second

* use very carefully because may exclude lots of useful information.

love NOT war Will exclude an idea/concept from your search because it will find documents that contain the first word, but do not contain the second.

NOT is helpful if you notice a recurring topic in your retrieval that is not relevant to your topic.

Forces the computer to search for words in a specified order.

obsessive adj compulsive Will find results where obsessive immediately precedes compulsive

Retrieves items that have both terms in the same sentence. You can add a number to near to instruct the computer to find results within those numbers of words in any order
alcohol near abuse

alcohol near3 abuse.
This will retrieve results where alcohol is within 3 words of abuse.

i.e., "Men who abuse their wives after alcohol consumption” or “Alcohol consumption leads to abuse"

Boolean Strategies

- If you are retrieving too many records on your topic, try adding another search term with the connector AND.

- If you are retrieving too few records on your topic, try adding another search term with the connector OR.·       

- If you are retrieving too many records on an unrelated topic, try eliminating a word with the connector NOT.

Truncation & Wildcards

To increase the number of hits retrieved, you might consider using a truncation symbol.  Truncation will pick up variations of a word stem. Truncation symbols vary, depending on the database.

e.g., critic* will find critic, critics, criticism, critical, etc.

The wildcard symbol can be used to replace one letter in a word. This will instruct the computer to do a search and match all letters in the word and use any letter to replace the wildcard symbol.

e.g., Wom?n will retrieve records with woman and women.

VERY IMPORTANT:The TRU library catalogue uses “$”, but all of the article databases use “*” for their truncation and wildcard symbols.

How to Read a Call Number

How to read a call number

Libraries use a classification system to arrange items so that the same topics are shelved together.  Most academic libraries use a system called "Library of Congress Classification System" or LC.   Think of the call number as being the "address on the shelf"!
Each call number is composed of several parts or lines. Our call number will be formatted a little differently, depending on where you see it, on a computer screen or on the spine of a book.

For example, consider the call number TK7881.6 M29 1993

Decoding a call number, step by step

It is not important that you know what "TK" represents.  It is important that you understand that the letters "TK" are read in alphabetical order:

A, B, BF, C, D...L, LA, LB, LC, M...

Therefore, "TK" is shelved after TJ and before TL.


The second line of our call number is read as a whole number:

1,2,3...4, 4.5, 4.9...32, 57, 57.01...

In our example, "TK 7881.6" will be located after TK 7880.7 and before TK 7882.5

The third line is composed of a letter and a number.  The letter is read alphabetically and the number is ALWAYS read as a decimal.

  L34, L373...M154, M29, M8...

L34 = .34    L373 = .373

That means that call number:

TK7881.6 M29 1993 will be shelved before  TK7881.6 M4 1992

The last line of our call number represents the year that the item was published.  This line is read in chronological order:

1984, 1985, 1989...1991, 1998...

Not all call numbers will include a year of publication, but most current items will.

Using a call number to locate an item on the shelf, consider each line of the call number in turn, before moving on to the next line.  The following call numbers are in order as they should appear on the shelves.

Because items are classified by subject, you will often find other items on the subject on the same shelf or nearby.  Further, items are arranged by author within a classification so you can find other works on the same topic by the same author. If you have difficulty locating or interpreting a call number, please Ask a Question!

Following a Citation Trail