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Boolean Searching Tips: Mathematical Operators

Searching tips and techniques for higher-level students. Advanced searching techniques to ensure retrieving all possible information.

Mathematical Operators

Some databases and Internet search tools such as Google and ACM Digital Library use mathematical operators to combine search terms.

Mathematical operators are the plus symbol (+) and the minus symbol (-).

The plus symbol (+) in front of a term (no spaces) requires that term to be in the returned record and is therefore similar in concept to the AND operator.

The minus symbol (-) in front of a term requires that word to be excluded from the search results and therefore similar in concept to the NOT operator.

For example:

(+energy +solar) retrieve records containing both terms.

(energy - solar) retrieve records containing energy and excluding solar.