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Boolean Operators

Boolean what? You may well ask. You are probably using boolean operators in various sentence constructions as you surf through the net.

Named after the 19th century mathematician and philosopher George Boole, boolean operators stand in symbolic representation of the words AND, OR and NOT. These logical operators are used in conditional computer programming languages, in mathematical logic as well as in the philosophy and logic of language.

For internet searching however it is valuable in defining, broadening or eliminating search words allowing users to use their search engines efficiently. Following is a brief example of how to use these boolean operators in optimising your search.

In search engines the AND is used to narrow down search results and retrieve records containing ALL of the words it separates.

For example if you typed in:-

“(George Boole) and (logical operators)” – this will retrieve records that only contain the search terms you have specified.

The term OR is used to broaden the search results by retrieving records containing ANY of the words it separates. Here, if you typed into your search engine the words:-

“(Boolean logic) or (boolean operators)” – this will retrieve each and every document containing either of the search terms.

The term NOT is used to search and retrieve records that do not contain the term following it. Again, if you typed in the search words:-

“(Boolean logic ) not (boolean algebra)” – this will effectively narrow your search by excluding the search term followed by NOT.

There are also proximity operators called WITH, NEAR and ADJACENT which are used for further refining searches. The default on most search engines understands a blank space between search words to be the operator AND, unless the key word OR separate search terms or the minus sign is between key words to produce those desired results. For search terms which you require to be in certain order its best to use nesting, that is using brackets to collect words hence allowing the search engine to packet those words as one search term.

Once you have tried out using boolean operators to optimise your on-line browsing, you can understand how these simple little words can help save you on-line time, and expand your search results. Its often that people ask me why I can find something on-line that they cant. The truth lies in using boolean operators as well as other advanced searching options such as “truncation”, “search term relations”, “search term precedence” and “single word title searching”. You can progress to using these techniques once you have understood how to use boolean operators within your search words.

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