Searching in Books & More

Basic Boolean searching

  • Use AND, OR, NOT, and – to combine terms with Boolean logic.
  • These Boolean operators must be in uppercase.


  • The AND operator finds materials where both terms appear.
  • The default search is AND.
  • Beatles AND biography finds materials with both terms, Beatles and biography.


  • The OR operator finds materials where either term appears.
  • Beatles OR biography finds materials that include the term Beatles and materials that include the term biography.


  • The NOT operator excludes materials that contain the term after NOT.
  • Beatles NOT biography finds materials that include the term Beatles, but do not have the term biography.
  • To exclude multiple terms, use the – (minus) operator. For example, Beatles -biography -media finds materials that include the term Beatles but not the terms biography or media.
  • The NOT operator cannot be used with just one term.

Phrased searching

“search terms are surrounded by special markers (generally, quotation marks) to show that they form a phrase. The software returns only those items in which these words appear next to each other, and in exactly the same order as the supplied phrase” (Webster’s New World Computer Dictionary, 2003)


The stemming algorithm automatically reduces words to their base or root form.

Query expansion

The opposite of stemming, this process automatically expands words to their common forms.

  • Quaker to Quakers and Quakerism.
  • conserve to conservation, conservative, etc.

Searches can be simultaneously stemmed and expanded.

  • robotic returns results for robot, robots, and robotics
  • cooking returns results for cooking as well as cook, cooked, cooks, and Cooke.

Phrased searches are still stemmed and expanded.


“a character (such as an asterisk or question mark) that stands for any other character, or series of any other characters, that may appear in the same place” (Webster’s New World Computer Dictionary, 2003)

If you want to search for multiple variations of a word, you can substitute a special symbol for one or more letters.

  • To perform a single character wildcard search use the ? symbol.
    • organi?e returns results for organise or organize
    • h??ophilia returns results for hemophilia and homophilia
  • To perform a multiple character wildcard search use the * symbol.
    • econom* returns results for economy, economies, or economics
    • h*ophilia returns results for hemophilia, Hispanophilia, haemophilia, hypereosinophilia, heterophilia, hibernophilia, and homophilia
  • Note: You cannot use a * or ? symbol as the first character of a search.

Stop words

“a word which is ignored in querying a database because it is so common and would produce so many results that it would obscure the search or take too much time” (The Macquarie Dictionary, 2005)

Tripod’s default stop words
an and are as at be but
by for if in into is it
no not of on or s such
t that the their then there these
they this to was will with


  • If you’re combining words with Boolean logic, remember to capitalize your operators; “and”, “or” and “not” are stop words when lowercase.
  • Stop words are ommitted in phrased searches right now too, but we plan to fix that.

Want more? Try our guide to Advanced Searching or our guide to Other Types of Searches in Books & More!