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GNDS 125: Gender, Race and Popular Culture

Online library research guide


Understanding how databases interpret your keywords (search logic) will allow you to execute more specific searches, thereby saving you time while retrieving more relevant results. Databases and search engines accomplish this with Boolean operators (AND OR NOT). Typically, this is considered Advanced Searching, as opposed to Basic, and is the default search mode in the article databases recommended in this guide.

  • Identify the essential keywords that best describe your topic
      •   Example:  representation   gender   film
  • Connect keywords using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)
    • AND is the most common Boolean operator and databases, including web search engines, assume AND between each keyword unless otherwise specified (with OR, for instance) - so if your keywords include a phrase, it is best to put the phrase in quotation marks in order to keep the phrase words together
    • AND is used to combine keywords so that your search results must contain all of your specified keywords (narrows your search)
      • Example: film AND "social identities" AND representation
    • OR is used to broaden your search results. When you want to find material containing either or any of the keywords, use OR to combine synonyms and related terms. Note that a Boolean keyword search in QCAT requires parenthesis around concepts you are OR-ing
      • Example: (race OR class OR gender) AND film
    • NOT is rarely used. It excludes whatever word follows NOT (you will likely find that you seldom, if ever, need to use NOT)

Although the focus of this guide is on finding relevant scholarly sources (books, chapters, journal articles) for your assignment, you may find it helpful to contextualize Boolean logic by examining how Google Advanced Search supports searching with Boolean logic:

all these words equals and, this exact word equals a phrase search, any of these words equals or, none of these words equals not

In an article database, such as the Gender Studies Database, the Boolean operators are supplied for you (default is AND, but you can change the operator by using the drop down menus):

search interface in the Gender Studies article database