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Art History and Visual Culture: Tips and tricks when searching

Basic techniques


  • astron*
        - astronaut
        - astronomy


  • wom?n
        - woman, women
  • Lind??ist
        - Lindkvist, Lindqvist, Lindquist

Exact phrases

  • ”climatic change”
        - not: climatic changes, changes in the climate

Boolean logic

Boolean logic acts as a base for how you communicate with a database and therefore it might be good to know a little about it. The operators (AND, OR and NOT) must be written in uppercase if you use them but in some databases you choose the operators in a menu.

  • AND is used to exclude, in most databases this will be added automatically if you do not write anything, Google for example automatically adds an AND between your keywords.
  • OR is used to include, this way you expand your search. For example searching for Street art OR Graffiti.
  • NOT is also used to exclude but in a different way.

These operators are common for all databases and can be used in any search field on the internet, from Google, to newspapers websites to academic databases. You can also use parenthesis to make more intricate search questions. For example Ice cream AND (chocolate OR vanilla) will give you results about chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream.

If you're good at Boolean search logic you can construct extremely specific and intricate search questions but modern databases and search tools can provide you with tools that give you the same opportunities in a more intuitive way.