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Getting Started in the Library

This guide helps students and faculty get started navigating the library's online resources.

Search Tips

Boolean logic defines logical relationships between terms in a search. The Boolean search operators are andor and not. You can use these operators to create a very broad or very narrow search. Use these terms in the library's Discovery search or in the library catalogue using the advanced search option.

  • And combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, painting and Canada finds articles that contain both painting and Canada.
  • Or combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, drawing or illustration  finds results that contain drawing or illustration.
  • Not excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, painting not acrylic finds results that contain painting but not acrylic.

Courtesy EBSCOnet help

Use the wildcard and truncation symbols to create searches where there are unknown characters, multiple spellings or various endings. Neither the wildcard nor the truncation symbol can be used as the first character in a search term.


The wildcard is represented by a question mark ? or a pound sign #.

To use the ? wildcard, enter your search terms and replace each unknown character with a ?. This search finds all citations of that word with the ? replaced by a letter. 

For example, type ne?t to find all citations containing neatnest or next. This search does not find net because the wildcard replaces a single character.  

Note: When searching for a title that ends in a question mark, the symbol should be removed from the search in order to ensure results will be returned.

To use the # wildcard, enter your search terms, adding the # in places where an alternate spelling may contain an extra character. This search finds all citations of the word that appear with or without the extra character.

For example, type colo#r to find all citations containing color or colour.

Note: Searching the U.S. spelling of words will also include some spelling variations (i.e. colour or odour) but not all spelling variations.

When using the pound/hash (#) wildcard, plurals and possessives of that term are not searched. For example, when running a search for the term colo#r, the terms "colors" and "colours" will not be searched (which they are by default when using the singular "color" or "colour" without a wildcard operator).


Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. ‚Äč

For example, type comput* to find the words computer or computing.

Note: The Truncation symbol (*) may also be used between words to match any word.

For example, a midsummer * dream will return results that contain the exact phrase, a midsummer night’s dream.

Note: Wildcards and Truncation can not be combined for a term in a search. For example, a search for p#ediatric* would be the same as a search for P*

Courtesy of EBSCOnet help.

Use quotation marks when entering a phrase or concept that includes two or more words to ensure your search will contain results relevant to your idea. For example, if you are searching for articles on desert art enter your search as "desert art." Without using quotations you will retrieve results that contain desert and art but not necessarily related to one another as a concept.

If you don't know the title or author of an item, or if you are searching for literature on a topic, you will probably rely on keyword or subject searches. Successful searching often depends on understanding the difference.
Keyword Searches

Keyword searches are similar to Internet searches with Google in that the database will look for the words you use wherever they may be on a page. Regardless of whether the word is in a title, author name, place of publication or footnote, the page will be returned as a result.

Subject Searches

Subject searches, on the other hand, only return results in which the term being used appears in the subject field. Databases have different interfaces and use different terms, but most will provide these two options for searching

Keyword or Subject Search?

  Do you know appropriate subjects?
Use a subject search unless you want to combine terms.
  Do you want to combine terms?
Use a keyword search.
  Is there little information about your topic?
Use a keyword search.
  Does your subject search return 'no results'?
Use a keyword search.
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