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Boolean Searching  

Sure, you can "get lucky" in database searching, but Boolean logic helps you find that "needle" in the "haystack" of information!
Last Updated: Nov 11, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Just what IS a database?

What's a database?

  • A database is information collected and organized for efficient retrieval.  
  • Databases may be printed, electronic, graphic, audio, statistical, or combinations of these.   
  • A database could be as simple as the list of numbers in your cell phone or as complex as one of the Library's databases. 
  • Databases may be general or cover very specific subjects. 
  • Databases usually cover only a certain range of dates.  Within the database, individual titles of newspapers, magazines, journals and other sources may vary.


A full-text database provides almost all of the complete text of a publication. In Academic Search Complete or ProQuest Research Library your search will bring up not only the citation (author, title, source, date, abstract, etc.) to an article from a journal, magazine or newspaper, but often the entire text of the article as well.  You can click a box in most full-text databases to limit your search to full-text articles only.   If the article you want isn't full-text, ask a librarian to help you get it through Inter-library loan—from another library system.


Availability of materials indexed (included) in database:
Most libraries don't carry all the publications indexed in a database. Both size and mission determine the type materials an institution has and the depth of coverage subjects are given. Smaller two-year college libraries won't have as many discipline-specific publications as a four-year graduate research institution. But each library will support its specific programs--such as Pierce's nursing, dental hygiene and veterinary technician programs--and will provide coverage of those programs based on the degrees offered.  So, an institution offering a master's degree in nursing will have more materials on that subject that an institution offering only a bachelor's degree.


Bibliographic databases provide a descriptive record of an item, but the item itself is not provided in the database.  Primo (the "one-search" tool that finds books AND other resources), is a bibliographic database with links to full text.  Information about a book or DVD and other types of items is provided, including the usual factoids like author, title, subject, publisher, etc., but ALSO which campus has the item, where in the library it's shelved (reference, circulating collection, A/V section, etc.) AND whether it's available! 


Inside a database:

Understanding how databases are organized can help you retrieve information more efficiently. Information about each item in a database is called a record.  Elements of an individual record are called fields. Fields are what you're choosing when searching a database. Think about the library's catalog…


Here's what YOU see when you look for a book:


 Here's what LIBRARIANS see--the fields and records!  



George Boole

George Boole, born in  England in 1815, was a philosopher of mathematics who showed that data could be treated similarly to numbers and could be manipulated following the laws relating to combining operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

(image from


A tutorial from Georgia

The University System of Georgia has a very thorough introduction to databases and database searching from their "Online Library Learning Center." 


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