What are Boolean Operators?
Boolean operators are part of a universal computer language that allow users to communicate with a computers mathematical operations using logical terms. These terms, when used correctly in search engines can not only shorten the amount of time spent searching for something, but can also pinpoint exactly what you are looking for with very little effort.
The most commonly used Boolean operators are OR, AND and NOT. Although the use of capital letters is usually not necessary for search engines it is common practice for computer programmers, and is always a good habit to acquire using all caps for them. The first sentence in this paragraph shows one of the reasons why this could be important. OK, enough of that. I will go over the most common Boolean operators first as they offer the widest variety and most common use like giving the user the ability to search the internet more effectively.
One of the most common misconceptions with Boolean operators is making the wrong assumptions about which ones are inclusive and exclusive. For example, a user may want to look up all websites that pertain to dogs and all websites that pertain to cats so they put in the exclusive AND search term “dogs AND cats” and think the results will include all dog websites and all cat websites, but this is not true. The only websites it will return are the ones that pertain to dogs and cats together. The term the user really wanted to use was the inclusive OR and the search term they should have used was “dogs OR cats” to get results including all dogs, all cats, and all dogs and cats websites. To learn more about the inclusive and exclusive use of Boolean operators read more about that here. The website includes some really helpful graphics that make Boolean operators much easier to understand.
Knowledge of advanced Boolean operations can be extremely helpful. For example, most mathematical operations read from left to right, but there are some exceptions to that rule. For instance, using quotation marks will combine group words and phrases and using parenthesis will force the order of processing to handle a Boolean within the parenthesis first. This assures that the words will remain together as a unit and can help make an advanced search with multiple operators much more efficient. You can find more examples of this here.
Perhaps the most valuable trick for search engines is the Truncated Boolean which allows users to place a * at the beginning or end of a word to include all spellings and plural forms of the word. For example: educ*.
Google is the #1 search engine because users do not have to know how to use the Boolean operators in order to find exactly what they are looking for. Google helps the user narrow their searches by including various search engines that narrow the search for them:
There is much more to learn about Boolean operators and advanced searching techniques. To learn more about advanced methods such as searching with titles or domains click here.
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