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How to Search to Find - 1: Boolean Logic & Boolean Operators in Find In Context


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From the point of view of your computer, all your files and data form a large database. In order to search that database effectively, you need to know the rules of computer database searching. It is often based on the principles of Boolean logic, which refers to the logical relationship among search terms, and is named after the British mathematician George Boole.

With Find In Context, the options to construct logical relationships among search terms extend far beyond the traditional practice of Boolean searching (although you can still use the standard boolean operators if you like).

Boolean logic consists of three logical operators: OR, AND, NOT. Find In Context's native search mode is NEAR, which is an extension of these and which provides higher flexibility and much more relevant results than the standard operators. The details are given below.

On this page (also see other pages):

Boolean OR: cats OR felines


Query: I would like information about cats.

In this search, we will retrieve records in which AT LEAST ONE of the search terms is present. We are searching on the terms cats and also felines since documents containing either of these words might be relevant.

This is illustrated by:

OR logic is most commonly used to search for synonymous terms or concepts. It collates the results to retrieve all the unique records containing one term, the other, or both.

Logical OR: cats OR felines

cats OR felines

Search terms Results
cats 7,859,770
felines 4,863,032
cats OR felines 9,719,805

The more terms or concepts we combine in a search with OR logic, the more records we will retrieve.

Logical OR: cats OR felines

cats OR felines OR kittens

Search terms Results
cats 7,859,770
felines 4,863,032
kittens 1,018,180
cats OR felines 9,822,982

TOP

Boolean AND: dyslexia AND adults

Query: I'm interested in dyslexia in adults.

In this search, we retrieve records in which BOTH of the search terms are present. This is illustrated by the shaded area overlapping the two circles representing all the records that contain both the word "dyslexia" and the word "adults". Notice that we do not retrieve any records with only "dyslexia" or only "adults"

Logical OR: cats OR felines

dyslexia AND adults

Search terms Results
dyslexia 859,770
adults 504,863,032
dyslexia AND adults 9,805

The more terms or concepts we combine in a search with AND logic, the fewer records we will retrieve.

Logical OR: cats OR felines

dyslexia AND adults AND gender

Search terms Results
dyslexia 859,770
adults 504,863,032
gender 206,560,908
dyslexia AND adults AND gender 305

TOP

Boolean NOT: cats NOT tigers


Query: I want to see information about cats, but I want to avoid seeing anything about tigers.

In this search, we retrieve records in which ONLY ONE of the terms is present. This is illustrated by the shaded area with the word cats representing all the records containing the word "cats". No records are retrieved in which the word "tigers" appears, even if the word "cats" appears there too.

Logical OR: cats OR felines

cats NOT tigers

Search terms Results
cats 7,859,770
tigers 2,654,402
cats NOT tigers 6,801,543

NOT logic excludes records from your search results. Be careful when you use NOT: the term you do want may be present in an important way in documents that also contain the word you wish to avoid.

TOP

Find In Context's NEAR search: AND & NOT


Find In Context's native search mode is NEAR, which is an extension of the rules described above. At the heart of it is the closeness of terms within a source document. NEAR is a restrictive AND, with the search words producing a "hit" only when they are close enough to each other. You can fine-tune your searches by adjusting the size of the context window. By reducing the size of the context window, you make the search more restrictive, i.e. the words must be closer to each other to produce a hit. By increasing the window, you allow for more hits to be found.

Similarly, the NOT operator in Find In Context also looks at the closeness of the words to your target. You can exclude hits from the final results based on how far the "unwanted" words are located. If they are in the same context window as the words you want to find, the hit is discarded. However, if the unwanted words are far from the what appears to be a relevant hit, the hit is included in the final results.

These advanced search options allow Find In Context to produce highly relevant search results, and allow you to find whatever you need to in a flash, saving you time and money. See other features and benefits of Find In Context.

How To Search To Find: Reference & Tutorial

Contents

1. Boolean Logic & Boolean Operators

2. The Language of Proximity

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