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ENG 334 - Introduction to English Linguistics: Search Tips

Resources for exploring Conlang and dialects

Choosing Keywords

Keywords describe or define your research question’s main ideas.  They can be words or phrases pulled directly from your research question or thesis.  They can also be synonyms of those words or phrases.  In preparing to search databases it is helpful to first identify useful keywords that can be entered into a database search box alone or in combination with other keywords.

Search Symbols

   A question mark  is called a wild card.  In a search, it replaces one character within a word.

  • for example:  you can search Sahar?n if you are unsure whether it is spelled Saharen or Saharan (correct spelling).
  • a pound sign (#) is used as a wild card if you want to replace 2 or more letters within a word.

*     An asterisk is used for truncation. It is always placed at the end.  It searches for all words that start with the root phrase before the pound sign. The *  represents any number of letters at the end of the word.

  • For example, if you want to search variations of a term, or are unsure of spelling:  white-tai* deer 
    will retrieve both white-tail deer and white-tailed deer (correct form)
  • This also works well for plurals that have different endings, or for alternate spellings for terms that are spelled differently in other English-speaking countries

Using AND / OR / NOT

And / Or / Not

These are Boolean operators. 

Think of each keyword as having a "set" of results that are connected with it.

These sets can be combined to produce a different "set" of results. 

AND is used to reveal only the documents that have both  â€‹concepts.. Use AND to narrow your search.

For example.  Below you see the difference in the amount of results that occurs by using the various operators.

Search Term



123,252 hits


91 hits

HIV AND Denialism

36 hits


The words "HIV' and 'Denialism will both be present in each record.

OR is a connector that allows either word to be present in each record in the results. Use OR to expand your search.

Search Term



86,877 hits


151,644 hits

Adolescents OR teenagers

182,833 hits


Either 'adolescents' or 'teenagers' (or both) will be present in each record.


NOT is a connector that requires the first word be present in each record in the results, but only if the record does not contain the second word.

Search Term



123,252 hits

Adolescents OR Teenagers

182,833 hits

 NOT United States

2,598 hits   


So a search for HIV AND Adolescents OR Teenagers NOT in the United States will remove records that include United States