Answered By: Kate Holvoet
Last Updated: Jan 14, 2015     Views: 19

When you do a search in a library catalog, database, or on the web you use a structure for the words that you put in the search box.  There are many different ways to choose to organize a search string that you type into a search box.  Not all search options are available in all databases.  For example, library catalogs use simple search options such as search term words as well as AND/OR.  Library catalogs also allow you to limit a search term to a particular field in the record, such as Keyword (anywhere in the record), Author, Title, and perhaps a few other specific record field like Publisher.

Most library catalogs, databases, and web search engines have a basic search box and an Advanced Search option that will let you know the additional search types you can do.

Web search engines like Google have a very broad array of search options, or ways or organizing your search.

From Google's Punctuation, symbols & operators in search:

Symbol What you can use it for
+ Search for Google+ pages or blood types
Examples: +Chrome and AB+
@ Find social tags
Example: @agoogler
$ Find prices
Example: nikon $400
# Find popular hashtags for trending topics Example: #throwbackthursday
- Remove words

When you use a dash before a word or site, it excludes results that include that word or site. This is useful for words with multiple meanings, like Jaguar the car brand and jaguar the animal.

Examples: jaguar speed -car and pandas

Connect words

When the dash is in between multiple words, Google will know the words are strongly connected.

Example: twelve-year-old dog

_ Connect two words like quick_sort. Your search results will find this pair of words either linked together (quicksort) or connected by an underscore (quick_sort).
" When you put a word or phrase in quotes, the results will only include pages with the same words in the same order as what's inside the quotes.
Note: Only use this if you're looking for an exact word or phrase, otherwise you'll exclude many helpful results by mistake.
Example: "imagine all the people"
* Add an asterisk within a search as a placeholder for any unknown or wildcard terms. Use with quotation marks to find variations of that exact phrase or to remember words in the middle of a phrase.
Example: "a * saved is a * earned"
.. Separate numbers by two periods without spaces (..) to see results that contain numbers in a given range of things like dates, prices, and measurements.
Example: camera $50..$100

Use search operators to narrow down results

Search operators are words that can be added to searches to help narrow down the results. Don’t worry about memorizing every operator - you can also use the Advanced Search page to create these searches.

Note: When you search using operators, don't add any spaces between the operator and your search terms. A search for will work, but site: will not.


What you can use it for


Get results from certain sites or domains. For example, you can find all mentions of "olympics" on the NBC website, or any .gov websites.
Examples: olympics and olympics


Find pages that link to a certain page. For example, you can find all the pages that link to


Find sites that are similar to a URL you already know. If you search for related sites to the, you'll find other news publication sites you may be interested in.


Without the OR, your results would typically show only pages that match both terms.
Example:  world cup location 2014 OR 2018


Get information about a URL, including the cached version of the page, similar pages, and pages that link to the site.


See what a page looks like the last time Google crawled the site.


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