My experience on Law Review at Detroit College of Law allowed me free and unlimited access to Lexis / Nexis and I took full advantage of it to develop and hone Boolean research skills. Let me give you an example of how powerful Boolean research is: When I was researching and writing my book Taking Charge: Good Medical Care for the Elderly and How to Get It, I used the online National Medical Library as well as Google. One of my early searches resulted in 12,000+ returns. Using Boolean research strategies, I was able to narrow that search to twelve medical journal articles! Not only did I find the answer to an important question, but one of the authors of that article, Dr. Joseph H. Friedman, a neurologist who teaches at Brown University Medical School subsequently became my mentor and later a co-author of the book.
Today's addition to Jeanne's Toolbox is a brief tutorial on how to do Boolean searches.
Here is a link to a 2-page "cheat sheet" that outlines many important Boolean strategies. This was created by Joe Barker for use in a class at the Teaching Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA.
There a a few additional Boolean search tools, not included in Barker's tutorial, that you may use:
Wild cards: Wild cards allow you to search words that have slightly different spellings. Frequently a question mark (?) is used to indicate a wild card letter, but sometime search engines use an asterisk (*). IF you are unsure which to use, check the Help Menu on the Internet resource you are searching.
Example: * wom?n This will search women and woman.
Finally, you can truncate a word, telling the computer to search all words that start a certain way.
Truncation: Truncation allows you to search words that begin with similar letters, but end differently. Most catalogs and databases use an asterisk (*) or a question mark (?) to represent remaining letters.
Example: Manufactur* This will search manufacturing, manufacturer, manufacture, manufactures, manufactured.