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Conducting Boolean Searches Using the Search Feature

In the previous sections you learned how to search for individual words (Shakespeare) or phrases (William Shakespeare) in the catalog. ITS.MARC also lets you search for words and phrases in certain combinations. This feature is known as Boolean searching, and the symbols used to connect words and phrases are called Boolean operators. The following table illustrates the operators available, sample searches, and the desired results.

Operator Example, Explanation
AND or & Shakespeare & Bard Search for both Shakespeare and bard anywhere in the same field
OR or | Shakespeare OR Bard Search for Shakespeare or bard anywhere in the same field
NOT or ~ Shakespeare ~ Bard Search for Shakespeare and not bard in the same field

Before you try your hand at Boolean Searching from the Search the Catalog page, remember that:

  • It can be used for searching any available fields author, title, subject, notes, all of those fields, or any combination;
  • Words being searched are not case sensitive (shakespeare, Shakespeare, and SHAKESPEARE are all interpreted the same way);
  • It works only with searches using the contain (not the begin with) parameter;
  • The search must be structured so that ITS.MARC can understand it.
Note: The Search form lets you perform Boolean searching only for the fields or field combinations specified in the Find pulldown menu. The Combination Search feature gives you additional flexibility in searching several different fields in the same query.

Structuring the Search

When you enter a search query in the "word(s)" box and press Find, ITS.MARC reads your entry from left to right, using the Boolean operators and other symbols. If no Boolean operators are used, an implied AND is inserted between every word. For example:

William Shakespeare Julius Caesar

is interpreted as William AND Shakespeare AND Julius AND Caesar

If one or more Boolean operators are used, words not separated by operators are interpreted as phrases. For example, the query

William Shakespeare AND Julius Caesar

is interpreted as "William Shakespeare" AND "Julius Caesar"

Search terms can be "nested" (enclosed in parentheses) to tell the system how to combine terms for searching. When nesting is used, Boolean operators are evaluated inside parentheses. For example

(William Shakespeare OR bard) AND Julius Caesar

means that the system would first search for the phrase "William shakespeare" or the word "bard" and then eliminate all results that do not include the phrase "Julius Caesar."

Can you figure out what the following query would retrieve?

((William Shakespeare) OR (Julius Caesar)) NOT (George Lyman Kittredge)*

*Find the phrase William Shakespeare or the phrase Julius Caesar where it does not appear with the phrase George Lyman Kittredge.