Boolean Search Operators

Learn how to apply Boolean operators to your database searches

START HERE What are Boolean operators and how do they help you?

Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) can help you expand or limit a database search. Boolean logic shows relationships between sets (words). This tutorial will show you when to use these operators while searching in a database.


For the AND operator all terms must be represented to be included in your results.

For example

Searching for articles about the University of Arizona's mascot, the Wildcat, will return many results. To narrow down your results, try searching for something more specific like Wildcats AND Tucson, or, Wildcats AND Arizona AND basketball to be even more specific. 

Which sentence(s) would be returned in a search with terms "Wildcats" AND "Basketball"?

  • The diet of wildcats in Great Britain varies geographically
  • The University of Arizona Wildcats Basketball team won the NCAA Tournament Championship in 1997
  • Basketball is a limited-contact sport played on a rectangular court

Using AND will help you to narrow down your search results.


For the OR operator, one or all of your terms will be returned in your results.

For example

You are looking for information about domesticated cats. There are a lot of synonyms for cat that could expand your search. Think about the different words for cat. Sometimes words also have different spellings with the same meaning. This could also expand your search. 

Which words will help to expand your search results?

  • Cat OR Feline OR Wildcat OR Kitten OR Kitty
  • Cat OR Canine OR Wildcat OR Kitten OR Kitty
  • Cat OR Feline OR Mouse OR Kitty OR Kitty

Using OR will help you to expand your search results when you want to search for multiple terms.


The NOT operator allows you to exclude specific terms from your search results.

For example

As using synonyms to gather more information using the OR operator, NOT can help by excluding words you do not need. Perhaps words have the same spelling but a different meaning. This will appropriately filter your results. If you are looking for Java NOT coffee you will get results for Java software.

Searching for "Wildcat" NOT "Mascot" will return

Using NOT will help you narrow down your search by excluding a term.

Putting it all together

Match the definition with the operator

Untitled text matching question

  • AND
    All terms must be present in your search results
  • OR
    At least one of your terms must be included in your search results
  • NOT
    Specified term(s) are omitted