Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

International Social Work year 2 - information skills: 2C Search strategies

Combined search with AND, OR, NOT (Boolean search)

Searching with the so-called Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT helps you find a manageable number of search results that are also sufficiently relevant to your question (quantity/quality).

The search results below are all written in bold. What do AND, OR and NOT do with your search result?

AND operator (search: "social support" AND "multiproblem families")
Results: pages containing both terms.








OR operator (search: "multiproblem families" OR "dysfunctional families")
Results: pages containing at least one of the 2 terms. So you can do both.








NOT operator (search: "dysfunctional families" NOT "alcohol addiction")
Results: pages containing the term "dysfunctional families" but not the term "alcohol addiction".












The Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT, but every source of information has its own way of writing these. So AND can also be written as + and NOT as -. Check the help function in your information source for how to write them.

Quote marks

By putting two or more search terms in quote marks, you are indicating that they must appear in this exact order in the search result.
You can use this method to search for a name that consists of a first name and a surname.
Words that are often written as one word in Dutch are usually written as two separate words in English. You can still search for these word combinations, by putting quote marks before and after the words.

An example of how to use quote marks:
“social media”

Create search strings (PPT)


To truncate means to leave out part of a word. This is replaced by an asterisk (*) or question mark (?), also known as a wildcard. This option expands your search result! The disadvantage is that the results may be less relevant, because your search term was less specific.

It can be worthwhile using truncation in the HAN catalogue. You should use the question mark for this (?).

Example of truncation: psych?: the search engine will search for psyche, psychiatrist, psychiatry, psychologist...

The most commonly-used truncation signs are *, ?, !, #. Check which sign should be used for each information source.


If a word can be written in several ways (using British and American spelling conventions, for example), and/or you do not know the exact spelling, you can mask (disguise, hide) a certain letter in the word. You do this by putting a question mark or asterisk in the place of the letter that you’re unsure about.

Examples of masking:
When you type organi*atin, the search engine will search for both organisation and organization.

When you type licen*e, the search engine will search for both license and licence.