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Stony Brook University

The History and Future of the American Press

Boolean Operators and Other Search Commands

Boolean operators allow you to give very specific instructions to databases and other search engines, like Google, so that you get back very focused information. You can also use boolean operators to expand your search in cases where you want to cast a broad net so that you can find additional relevant information.

Other Search Commands

LexisNexis also provides the ability to search for words a certain distance from each other. You can use the W/n command to search engine maximum distance between the words, n being the number of words. For example, if searching for a person whose middle name or initial is sometimes used, like William Randolph Hearst. Then use william W/3 hearst as the search string.

Or you can the examples to get try to find words in the same phrase, sentence, or paragraph.

Choose this:

for search words to appear:

W/3 - W/5

in approximately the same phrase


in approximately the same sentence


in approximately the same paragraph

Review the material on this page and on the Video Tutorials tab to find out about additional search options and learn how to construct more sophisticated searches.

Some Search Tricks

Here are some easy tricks that can help with your searching:

Putting an AND between words will search for BOTH words on a webpage or in an article.  When you do a normal Google search, you are doing an AND search.

EXAMPLE: immigration and employment will only give you web pages or articles that have both of those words.  This means you will get fewer results, but they should be better results.

Putting QUOTATION MARKS around a phrase will search for web pages or articles that have that exact phrase.  This is a very useful trick.  It will cut down on the number of bad results.  Be careful not to include too many words inside the quotation marks, because that's EXACTLY what will be searched.

EXAMPLE: “genetic engineering” will only give you web pages or articles with that exact phrase.  Other examples are "climate change," "no child left behind," "body image."

An ASTERISK (*) search is very useful when similar words are being used to talk about a topic.  It searches for all the various words using the same root.

EXAMPLE: comput* will give you articles that have the words compute, computer, computing, etc.  Or: educat* will search for educate, education, educator, educators, etc.

Putting an OR between words will give you articles with at least one of the words.  This will give you more results.  It can be useful when you're not sure which word is being used more.

EXAMPLE: fat OR obesity will give web pages and articles that have the word fat.  And it will give you web pages and articles that have the word obesity.

Use (Parentheses) to group multiple search terms together.  You're basically doing TWO searches at the same time.

EXAMPLE: debt and (teenagers or adolescents) will give you web pages or articles that have the words debt and teenagers and web pages and articles that have the words debt and adolescents.