Boolean Operators: Get the Most out of Your Googling

By Edwin Tran


There are many things in life with complicated names that seem to conjure up vague images of damnation and abhorrent cosmic creatures that dare to defy comprehension. The reality, however, is that many of these words can be boiled down to simplistic terms and definitions. When presented with the phrase “Boolean operators,” the first reaction I had (and I believe it to be a logical one) was intense confusion and bewilderment. One quick Google search later revealed that Boolean operators are something both simple and incredibly familiar for many individuals.

So, what is this Boolean operator? Boolean operators are very basic words that are used to streamline and enhance an online search. To specify, these words are:

  • And
  • Or
  • Not

“But what are the specific practical applications of this random and seemingly trivial piece of information that would probably be found in a game of Jeopardy?”

Well, I’m glad you asked! Boolean operators can be used to combine items together to get a wide array of search results, or they can be used to narrow down search results by specifically removing certain terms that you don’t want to see. Let’s look at each of the Boolean operators individually to see what they are actually used for:


When you use the word and between two terms, the search will go through all entries that have the existence of those two terms and return them. For example, if I wanted to find all entries that discussed war and peace, I would use the Boolean operator and in between the two terms to gather sources that contain both war and peace.


The Boolean operator or is used in a similar fashion to and, but it has the stipulation where searches will return entries that contain any or all of the terms being searched. For example, let’s say I am writing a paper on war and peace, but I don’t necessarily need both of those terms to both appear in each of my sources. In this case, using or will result in some sources containing only war, some containing only peace, and probably some that contain both terms.


As the name suggests, the term not is used to eliminate certain words in a search. For example, if I am searching for war but I hate peace (because at heart I am a spirited Prussian emboldened by the spirit of the Kaiser and Otto von Bismark and as a result am a belligerent soul), searching “war NOT peace” will make sure that only the word war is searched for and all entries that have the word peace in it are not returned.

In summation, Boolean operators are crucial in streamlining and improving the searching process. By having the ability to narrow, widen, or eliminate search entries based on designated parameters, the act of researching and intellectual exploration have become easier than… uh… cake? Seriously, next time you decide to do a Google search while researching a project, just use these simple words.


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One Response to Boolean Operators: Get the Most out of Your Googling

  1. Pingback: Looking Past the First 10 Results: Tips for Filtering Sources Effectively | University of Nevada, Reno – UWC

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