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AND, OR, NOT
(Boolean Operators)

Using the Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine keywords in a database search allows you to narrow or expand your search. To build a complex search using two or more Boolean operators, you will need to learn the advanced technique of nesting (see Creating a Search Query for more details).

In the Venn diagrams below, the area retrieved is the most lightly shaded area.


Use AND to narrow a search. BOTH terms must be present in any references you retrieve.

Example: phosphonic acid AND toxicity

Use OR to expand a search. Your search will retrieve records with EITHER of the terms.

Example: ethanol OR methanol

OR is most often used to combine synonyms or like terms.


Use NOT to exclude a term. Records with the first term will be retrieved, but any records with the second term will be eliminated.

Example: nmr NOT carbon 13