OPACapalooza! Module 3: Advanced Searching

Module 3 Summary

Like other databases, many OPACs use Boolean searching.  If you have been to Module 2 of Searching Simplified, then you may recall how to use AND, OR, and NOT combinations to search.  If you haven’t seen that particular tutorial, or if you feel you need a refresher, here is a quick explanation.  To combine more than one search term in a database, you link the words together using a combination of AND, OR, and NOT.  AND and NOT narrow your choices down; AND by telling the database to look for both words in the same record, and NOT by telling it to exclude a term.  OR expands your search so you can get everything about two words or phrases.  This is usually done when you have two related terms, like climate change and global warming, and you’re not sure which one will bring results.  Below are visual diagrams of how each type of search operates; the blue area represents the results you would get back.  The first is a search for Butterflies AND Moths, the second for Butterflies OR Moths, and the third for Butterflies NOT Moths.  Notice where the blue area falls in each:

Boolean example

You can also narrow your results in other ways, like by format. Perhaps you are looking for DVDs instead of books; the advanced search allows you to choose only “visual materials”. (Of course, VHS tapes are still relatively abundant in our catalog, so they will also show up in a “visual materials” search.) And, of course, you can choose a single date or a date range to narrow your options even further.

Module 3 Objectives:

1. Know where to find the advanced searching area of the catalog.
2. Know how to combine terms (Boolean searching).
3. Know how to limit your search to a format.
4. Know how to limit your search by date.


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1.  Click on Advanced Search, located at the top of the page, to get to this page, which gives you more commands for more precise results.  There are two different sections, one which has your search commands, and one that limits your search by format and date.  Let’s concentrate on looking at the search part for now.  The first thing you might notice is that it gives you three search boxes, each with their own field selection menu.  You also have the Words Adjacent option.  These are linked together with the Boolean search terms–AND, OR, NOT–mentioned above.

advanced search

2. Using advanced searching to combine terms allows you to search for more than one topic. AND is the most frequently used; let’s say you were looking for informaiton about nutrition relating to diabetes. A search for diabetes AND nutrition will give you just that.  Notice how the above search is linking the the two terms with AND.  The first three results for this search are below:

 advanced search diabetes and nutrition results

3. You can combine up to three terms, in any Boolean combination you choose. Each unique combination will give you unique results. Compare the first three results of the search below with the ones from above.  Here’s one way you could set up a three word search:

OPAC AND/OR search setup

Adding OR diet to your search changes the results:

 results for AND/OR search

4. Now let’s look at the other half of the page, where you can choose a date range and format.  We’ll do date first.  Let’s limit our diabetes subject search with a date range of 2008-2012.

date range setupAll results fall within the date range and are diabetes-specific.

diabetes date limiter results

5.  Lastly, you can limit your search to a book, a visual material (DVD or VHS), a magazine title (remember that the OPAC doesn’t find actual articles), or other format. 

material format limiter

A search for the movie Polar Express is simple if you choose Format when searching for the title.

 Polar Express visual material limiter result

OPACapalooza! home
Introduction to Online Catalogs
Module 1: Basic Search (keywords)
Module 2: Field Search (author, title, subject searching)
Module 3: Advanced Search (Boolean searching, date limiters, material type limiters, etc.)
Module 4: Special Features (login to renew, WorldCat, Google Books, citations)