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SOCY 122: Introduction to Academic Library Research

Course guide library research tutorial

Keyword Search

When searching for books on a topic, rather than for a specific title or author, search the Library catalogue using one of the keyword search options. Keywords are taken from many parts of the catalogue record including the title, author, subject headings and table of contents fields.

There are two keyword search options available in QCAT: keyword and keyword Boolean.

Keyword vs Keyword Boolean

A keyword search works much the same way as a search in a web search engine, where "AND" is assumed between your keywords.

A keyword search using Boolean operators allows you to combine your search terms and get more precise results, and this is the type of keyword search this tutorial will address. 

  • Use AND to combine search terms and narrow results
  • Use OR to expand search results by searching for two or more related concepts (or synonyms) simultaneously
  • Use NOT to narrow search results (it is generally better to use "not" sparingly, if at all)
  • Truncate words by using ?: cultur? (finds culture, cultures, cultural, etc.)
  • Search phrases by using quotes: "social justice"
  • Group search terms by using parentheses: (child? or teen?) and "social inequality”

Example: a keyword boolean search in QCAT for material about what effect poverty has on the health of the elderly could be phrased as:

(poverty or poor) and (elderly or aging or aged) and health?

boolean search