Boolean Operators Research Papers

For students, it is not always clear that using Boolean logic is better than a natural language or phrase search in the style of Google.

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A student’s ability to use Boolean operators is a performance indicator within the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.

These standards, though rescinded in 2016, influenced IL education across the United States and beyond for more than fifteen years.

Google Scholar is a very powerful search engine for scientific literature that is used by many researchers and students.

It is especially useful to find and access publications that you already know, or to do a quick search on a topic.

Librarians and other information professionals are taught the value of Boolean searching (referred to throughout this article interchangeably as “Boolean”) in professional education, and it is seen in instruction, reference interactions, and database interfaces.

However, the concept can be difficult for first-year (introductory) students to grasp, and it can take multiple sessions before a student demonstrates effective use of Boolean logic.

Moreover, the instruction of technical Boolean logic is out of sync with the Framework and its less mechanical, more conceptual approach to IL.

Natural language searching has various definitions. For the purposes of this article, we define natural language as searching in phrases or sentences instead of a structured search query using operators and/or punctuation.

Anecdotally, the authors have worked at multiple institutions and taught Boolean regularly, generally introducing the concept at the first-year (introductory) level, and building on that in upper-level classes.

Interestingly, while the ACRL Standards specifically mention Boolean, the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education only refers to searching (controlled vocabulary, keywords, natural language).


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