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Crumb Library

Crane Library

Starting your research

When to use phrases


  • In searching, phrases are multiple words that you want the database to keep together in the order you type them.  Most often, these are single ideas that are expressed with multiple words.  
  • Examples: United States, cardiac arrest, tax return, neighborhood watch, genetic engineering, Valentine's day
  • Don't assume the database will keep your words together. You may get very different results than expected if you don't specifically tell the database you are looking for a phrase


How to search for phrases

  • To keep a phrase together, contain it in quotation marks.
  • Most often, when you type multiple words in a search box without quotations around them, the database is programmed to stick a boolean AND in between the words.
  • Nearly all databases use quotation marks to keep your words together when searching, but a very few use parentheses.  So if you're not getting the results you expect, check the help screens to see what their process is.
  • Some databases offer the option of clicking a button to specify you want your words searched as a phrase.