Skip to Main Content

Advanced Search Tips: Searching Phrases

Tips for narrowing your searches in academic databases and search engines.

Searching for Phrases

Searching for phrases is very simple: you put a phrase in quotation marks ("your phrase") and your search is narrowed down to two words together in a phrase.

Examples of Phrase Searching

Research in every academic discipline will sometimes require to search for phrases. Here are some examples in each discipline:

  • If you're an education major researching the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act. you could search for "no child left behind" in library databases
  • If you're a history major doing research on the Cold War, you could search "cold war" in library databases
  • If you're a business major researching entreprenuerial ideas, you could search "business plans" in library databases.

Using Quotation Marks Makes A Difference

Putting phrases in quotation marks excludes words within the phrase. For example, if I wanted to search for critical race theory and I typed the phrase without quotation marks, I would get articles that mention race, critical, or theory, but not necessarily together as a phrase. There would be some relevant results that discussed critical race theory, but using quotation marks quickly weeds out what I don't need. 

In this video, I searched for both environmental racism without quotation marks and then "environmental racism" within quotation marks. See the difference?