When you're doing any kind of research online, it's important to have a specific strategy in order to make the best use of your time and money. One of the most important of these is known as "Boolean logic." Named after English mathematician George Boole, this technique is often mentioned in the help files or instruction screens of the search engines or other search facilities of bulletin board systems and the World Wide Web.
Stated simply, this technique involves writing out what you're looking for as a phrase or sentence, then linking the words in the phrase or sentence together by using the terms "AND," "OR," and "NOT". For example, if you're looking for information on a particular make, model and year of car, you would type in the phrase, "Pontiac AND Firebird AND Trans Am AND 1973". If you wanted to look for either of two makes and models, you could type in, "Pontiac AND Firebird OR Chevrolet AND Camaro".
The search qualifier "NOT" can be just as important and productive as the terms "AND" and "OR". In fact, sometimes using "NOT" can be the only way to find exactly what you need! For example, you could type in, "Chevrolet AND Camaro NOT RS" instead of "Chevrolet AND Camaro AND Z-28".
Often, you may need to use several successive stages or layers of Boolean logic in perform- ing a search. For example, the first time around, you may need to type in, "Pontiac AND Firebird." Then, you would further qualify the search by typing in either "Trans Am" or "Pontiac AND Firebird AND Trans Am." Continue this process until you either find the information you need, or become satisfied that it is not there.
It's important to remember that different search engines or systems will have different ways of working. Consequently, a flexible approach to searching is needed. Most all such systems will have some kind of help or instructions on how to make the best use of their resources. Also, if you're in a library, don't hesitate to ask one of the librarians for help when you're doing research. They're trained in doing such work, and can often provide useful insights and suggestions to help you home in on a specific topic or subject.Return to list of articles