Skip to Main Content

How do I narrow or expand my search results?

You can narrow your search results by adding more keywords or by utilizing different search techniques. This includes Boolean operators AND and NOT, Near searching, Truncation/Wildcard, Phrases, and Limiters/Filters.

You can expand your search results using fewer keywords and using the Boolean operator OR.

Boolean operators

Conjunction words used to combine or exclude keywords in a search (AND, OR, NOT). You can also include parentheses to specify the order in which they are interpreted.

Boolean Operators

Example Search: ("Hunger games" AND (Women OR Gender)) NOT Book

NOTE: AND is assumed by default in Google. OR works to expand your search in Google, but use - (the minus sign) instead of NOT.

Near or Proximity Searching

Specifies how close words appear near each other in a text. This strategy improves the conceptual relationships between search terms. With EBSCO databases, use the operator “N” plus a number to specify the distance between words.

Near Searching

In JSTOR, use the ~ to perform a proximity search, like this: games women~5. Or, use advanced search. Note that you cannot perform a proximity search using phrases, only single words.


 You can use this strategy to create searches with unknown characters, multiple spelling, or various endings.  An asterisk (*) can replace multiple character or endings, while a question mark (?) replaces just one character.

                                  Truncation Example: Feminis* searches Feminism and Feminist 

                                  Wildcard Example: Wom?n searches women and woman

Phrase Searching

To search multiple words as an exact phrase, use double quotation marks.

Example: “Hunger Games”


Most databases allow you to narrow your search results according to certain criteria.

Example in Academic Search Ultimate:

Limiters in Academic Search Ultimate - Full text, Scholarly Peer Reviewed Journals, and Source types

You can use these techniques right in the Google (or most other search providers) search box:

OR between related words or synonyms, e.g. women OR gender

- to exclude words, e.g. the search Hunger games -book would return results that don't include the word book. This is great for excluding irrelevant results

site:[website], e.g. would search the entire Wabash website. Also useful to search only .edu or .gov sites

Can't find articles relating to your research question?

Information gaps exist. You might not find articles that cover all of your identified concepts.

Try broadening your search:

  • Broaden your search terms
  • Lessen the number of terms used
  • Look at related concepts
  • Focus on a specific argument within your paper, opposed to your broad thesis.

Still stuck? Ask us for help!


Lilly Library is a founding member of PALNI, ALI, and The Oberlin Group

Wabash logo
301 W. Wabash Avenue
Crawfordsville, IN 47933
(765) 361-6100