Keyword Search Tips

Below are tips for creating better searches that return more relevant results.

Quotes for an Exact Phrase

In most databases and search engines, putting quotation marks around a phrase will force it to search that exact phrase.

Example: "employee onboarding" will return results with that exact phrase, rather than results that may be about 'passenger onboarding' that mention airline employees.

A 'Wildcard' for Words with Multiple Endings

Most databases (and Google) use the asterisk (*), but some may use another symbol like an exclamation point (!), so check the tools help for more details. 

Example: motivat* will find motivate, motivates, motivation, motivational.

This is helpful if you don't want to accidentally exclude results that use different word ending.

Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT)

Boolean operators can save you time by making your search very specific. You can use them in most databases and search engines, and even most email providers.


  • "implicit bias" OR "anti-racism" will search for results about either implicit bias or anti-racism
    • This is helpful when there may be lots of synonyms you want to search for at the same time.
  • ("implicit bias" OR "anti-racism") AND "employee training" will search for results about implicit bias and training
    • The AND operator will help you narrow your search to focus on two (or more) topics, not each topic separately. In the above example, you don't just want resources on employee training, you want them on workplace training specifically about implicit bias or anti-racism.
  • ("implicit bias" OR "anti-racism") AND ("employee training") NOT onboarding
    • If you're getting a lot of irrelevant results, you can generally exclude them. Some databases use NOT, others (like Google) use a - before the word (ex: -onboarding).

Answered By: Alice Kalinowski
Last Updated: Jul 16, 2020

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