Skip to Main Content

Search Library Databases Effectively: Phrase Searching

Why Use Phrase Searching

When searching library databases, it is important to know that different databases may interpret your search differently.

  • Some databases, not all, assume that if two words are typed together, they should be searched as a phrase.
  • While some databases automatically connect two words with AND.
  • When you search by keywords and connect your words with Boolean AND, the results will include all the words you type, but not necessarily together and in that order.

As a result, you may get some articles that are not relevant. How do you avoid this?

  • When you insert quotes around your search terms, you force the database to search your words as a phrase. Your results will include your words in exactly the order you typed them.

Click the Arrows to Compare Searching With and Without Quotations

keyword search for a phrase without quotations

Without Quotations

A keyword search for DREAM Act in RaptorSearch without using quotations returns over 700,000 results!  Many of these results are likely unrelated to the DREAM Act.

Keyword search for a phrase with quotation marks

With Quotations

A keyword search for "DREAM Act" in RaptorSearch with quotation marks surrounding the phrase returns fewer than 6,000 results! This search returned more relevant results thanks to the use of phrase searching.

Try It

"Try It!" with blank notebook and pencil

Click on the link below to test your understanding of when to use quotations!

More Research Skills Guides

Want to learn more? View our other research skills guides:

MC Library Research Skills Guides