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Apr 12 2022 - 02:00 PM
Advanced Searching Workshop

Are you ready to go beyond simple keyword searching and maximize your success in research? This guide accompanies the Advanced Searching Workshop held on April 12th, 2022 and focuses on how to utilize different tools to get the most out of your search.

We will go over using Boolean logic to construct a search strategy, learning search punctuation common to many discovery tools and search engines, filtering results, and using additional search functions. These tips can be useful in writing a paper, thesis, dissertation, literature review, and more.

historical b&w photograph of Teachers College showing the catalog room and patrons using library services including the card catalog

Student Conferring With Miss Carrie Meares, Library Consultant. Mr. Kronenberger (Center) At Catalog. Teachers College Archive Photograph Collection, Courtesy of Gottesman Libraries.

What is Advanced Searching?

You might be familiar with something called a simple search: when you open Google and enter any search term you are performing a simple search. In the Gottesman libraries catalog Educat+ you can do the same thing. This means you are searching every field against your keyword search term including title, author, subject, etc. This will return lots of results typically. Try this with a search term you are interested in and see how many results pop up—it can often be far too many results to wade through if you aren't exactly sure what you are looking for yet.

Advanced Searching is a tactic we can use to narrow (or expand) our results using tools like search punctuation, boolean operators, and filters. This can help us find more precise results than a simple search can.

The Advanced Search Bar

While most library and database search engines will have an Advanced Search option, we will start by looking at Educat+'s Advanced Search. For details about navigating the library catalog more generally, check out this Guide to Educat+ also on the blog. Below you will see an example of what Advanced Search looks like. Try pulling up the Advanced Search bar and exploring each element detailed below.

Screenshot of Educat+'s Advanced Search window.

Narrowing your Search

  • The top navigation bar in the Advanced Search window narrows by type of resource. Educat+ is the default and captures all the other categories, but you can search only Books & Media, Articles, Children’s Books, etc.
  • Next, we can use the “Field” drop-down menu to search within specific fields like author, subject, title, and even identifiers like ISBN or Holding Call Number.
  • Next we can adjust how Educat+ will search for the term. Do we know the exact title? then use “is (exact)”. If not, your best bet is “contains”.

Using Boolean Logic

Now if we move to the next line, we can start to explore how we connect multiple search terms together.

Our search engine is already set up to operate on boolean logic. Boolean logic uses the terms AND, OR, and NOT (called Boolean Operators) to capture relationships between the terms we are searching. In the drop down menu of the second search line, you can toggle between these options. Let’s explore each of these:

  • AND: both terms entered must be present in the result, i.e. education AND theory.
  • OR: either term can be present in the result. this is useful when you want to use synonyms of your search term to expand your results, i.e. attitudes OR perspectives OR outlook.
  • NOT: the term included must not be present in a result. This is useful when you keep getting one result but it is not used in the context you are looking for, i.e. online NOT asynchronous.

You can keep adding lines and adjusting the AND, OR, and NOT drop down menu, or you can type them directly in to the first search bar. It will work both ways. You also do not need to capitalize them.

More Ways to Narrow

  • On the right, you will see a couple more fields you can narrow your search by.
  • First, we can select what material type and language we are looking for.
  • We can also narrow by date: this will capture publication date, so if you are specifically looking for recent research, or publications from a certain year, utilize this field.


Before we can search, lets talk about punctuation. Most search engines use a common set of punctuation to clarify searches, so you can often use these across different search engines like Google Scholar or Columbia University Libraries discovery tool, CLIO.

  • Quotation marks will search for an entire phrase—without them you will be searching for each word in a phrase individually. For example, if you want to search for resources in Art Education, include the two-word phrase in quotation marks so you don’t get instances of Art and Education as separate topics.
  • An asterisk at the end will capture related words, specifically words with the same root as your search term. This is called a wildcard. To use an asterisk you might have to truncate, meaning whittling down your word to its root. For example, the search philosoph* will capture instances of philosophy, philosophers, philosophical, etc.
  • you can do a similar thing with a question mark, but it will only replace one letter. It is still called a wildcard. For example, the search wom?n will bring back results with both the words women and woman.
  • Use parentheses to enclose your search terms and show the order of searching. For example, you can search for "English Education" AND Poetry AND (technology OR computer OR digital).

The Filter Column

Most search engines will have a column on the left-hand side of the screen to filter your results even further once you have completed a search. Some filter columns will be in different places and have different categories to filter by, but they can be incredibly useful.

In Educat+ you can use the first field on the left to decide how you would like to sort your results. The default is by Relevance, but Date, Title, and Author are all options. Filter options include Availability, Resource Type, Subject, Author/Creator, Location, Collection, Creation Date, Journal Title, and finally Language. If you are performing research and a requirement for your sources is peer-reviewed, make sure to check this box in the Availability filter.

Additionally, it is important to remember that when you perform a new search, the filters you selected will be cleared unless you check “Remember all filters” at the top.

The Actual Search

Try constructing a search using the filters, boolean operators, and punctuation explained above. Are you starting to get less and less results? Advanced Searching takes some time to get the hang of, so don’t be disheartened if your search turns up with zero results. Go back and adjust some filters, add more search terms, or try synonyms of your current search terms. When it comes to the ideal amount of results to get back, everyone is different depending on what they feel is manageable to look through, but it can be helpful to aim for less than 100 results.

Other Search Engines to Try

Library Poster reads

This explanation has focused on searching in Educat+, but these tactics can be utilized in many other databases and discovery tools. For each Advanced Search you come across, it is always good practice to poke around and see what different filters and fields you are able to manipulate. Here are a couple to try:

CLIO - Columbia University Libraries' discovery tool that searches the library catalog, e-journal articles, digital commons, and more. To get to CLIO’s advanced search function, start by doing a quicksearch in the search bar (you can use boolean operators and the punctuation discussed above in this quicksearch tool). This will return results for each area of the library resources searched, including the catalog, articles, etc. clicking each respective category in the left-hand column or by clicking “view and filter results” will bring you to a more detailed view of the results as well as the option to start advanced searching by field.

EBSCOHost - Gottesman Libraries provides access to EBSCOHost a collection of databases relevant to fields of study at Teachers College, Columbia University with a useful searching tool. You can choose the databases you are interested in and begin using the Advanced Searching techniques outlined above. EBSCO has a host of filters to explore under the search bar, and the limiters can be database specific. Additionally, another exciting feature of EBSCO is it will suggest previous popular searches that often include related terms already separated using boolean operators!

Google Scholar - This is Google’s scholarly discovery tool that searches a wide breadth of academic work. Because Google Scholar searches so widely, some resources that turn up may not have access through Columbia or Teachers College. In Google Scholar settings under Library Links you can add both Gottesman Libraries and Columbia Libraries e-links directly into the results list. Enter “Teachers College, Columbia University” and “Columbia University in the City of New York” to add these libraries to your search. Additionally, if you are logged in you can save your search results to your library within Google Scholar. You can access Google Scholar’s Advanced Search bar by clicking the pop-out menu on the left.

Federal Art Project, Sponsor. For Greater Knowledge on More Subjects Use Your Library More Often.

[Chicago: illinois wpa art project, between 1936 and 1941] Photograph.

Retrieved from the Library of Congress,


Posted in: Learning at the Library|By: Becca Gates|255 Reads