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Game Design and Development

Database Search Tips

Boolean Operators are simple words used as conjunctions to combine or exclude keywords in a search, resulting in more focused and productive results.

  • They connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your set of results.

  • The three basic boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT.

Why use Boolean operators?

  • To focus a search, particularly when your topic contains multiple search terms.

  • To connect various pieces of information to find exactly what you're looking for.


  Use AND in a search to:

  • narrow your results
  • tell the database that ALL search terms must be present in the resulting records
  • example:

  Use OR in a search to:

  • connect two or more similar concepts (synonyms)
  • broaden your results, telling the database that ANY of your search terms can be present in the resulting records
  • example:

  Use NOT in a search to:

  • exclude words from your search
  • narrow your search, telling the database to ignore concepts that may be implied by your search terms
  • example:

Search Order

Databases follow commands you type in and return results based on those commands. Be aware of the logical order in which words are connected when using Boolean operators: 

  • Databases usually recognize AND as the primary operator, and will connect concepts with AND together first.
  • If you use a combination of AND and OR operators in a search, enclose the OR words together in parentheses.  Example: unity game engine AND (UV mapping OR texture compression).

Stop words are frequently occurring, insignificant words that appear in a database record, article or web page. Common stop words include:

  • a
  • an
  • the
  • in
  • of
  • on
  • are
  • be
  • if
  • into
  • which

Why should you care about stop words?

  • Many databases ignore common words from your search statement.  If included, the database returns far too many results.

How can you avoid using stop words in your search?‚Äč

  • Choose the most significant words that describe your topic and connect them together using Boolean operators or proximity operators.
  • Search for your terms in specific fields, such as author, title or subject/descriptor.

Truncation & Wildcards

  • Root words that have multiple endings.
  • Words that are spelled differently, but mean the same thing.
  • Truncation/wildcard symbols vary by database.


Truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.  To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.  The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.


  • child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood
  • genetic* = genetic, genetics, genetically
  • Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #


Similar to truncation, wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word.  This is useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning.


  • wom!n = woman, women
  • colo?r = color, colour

Controlled Vocabulary

controlled vocabulary is an organized arrangement of words and phrases used to index content and/or to retrieve content through browsing or searching. It typically includes preferred and variant terms and has a defined scope or describes a specific domain.

To find subject headings for your topic:

  • Look to see if the database has an online thesaurus to browse for subjects that match your topic (check the Help screens).

Another way to find subject headings:

  • Start with a keyword search, using words/phrases that describe your topic.

  • Browse the results; choose 2 or 3 that are relevant.

  • Look at the Subject or Descriptor field and note the terms used (write them down).

  • Redo your search using those terms.

  • Your results will be more precise than your initial keyword search.