Power Searching

While you can just type in a few words related to what you’re looking for, understanding and using some simple tricks can increase the power of your search.

Basic Search

For a basic search, just type one or more words you are looking for.

TIP: By default, BU Libraries Search will search for items with all the words you’ve entered.

Searching for a Phrase

To search for a phrase, type quotation marks around the phrase. You can combine both individual words and phrases in your search.

TIP: If you do not enclose the phrase in quotation marks, the search will instead find items that contain the individual words in the phrase, regardless of order or proximity to each other.


For example, to search for “global warming” as a phrase, enter this in the search box:

Searching for Any Specified Words or Phrases

To search for items that contain at least one of several words or phrases, but not necessarily all of them, type OR between the words or phrases in the search box.

TIP: If you don’t use OR, the search will look for items that include all the words and phrases in the search box and exclude results that are missing one or more of the words or phrases.


For example, to search for items mentioning either cars or automobiles, enter this in the search box:

TIP: To use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in a search, the operators must be in uppercase.

Excluding Words or Phrases

To exclude items matching a specific word or phrase from the search results, type NOT in front of them in the search box.  This is helpful when searching for a term that is used in different contexts.  For example, if you are searching for information about musical sonatas, you won’t want information about the Hyundai Sonata car model.

In this case you would enter these words:

Searching Using Wildcards

You can use the following “wildcard” characters in searches:

  • ? — A question mark in a search word will match any single character. For example, a search for wom?n would retrieve results that include either woman and women.
  • * — An asterisk in a search word will match zero or more characters. For example, a search for farm* would retrieve results that include farm, farmsfarmer, farmhand, farming, etc.

Grouping Terms

You can use parentheses to group terms in a search. For example, to search for either cars or automobiles that are either hybrid or electric, enter this in the search box: