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NM4219: New Media in Health Communication: Boolean Search

How to create a search statement

To form a search statement, we can combine boolean operators with keywords.

To use an example, let's look at the issue of - youth targeted campaigns in the area of eating disorders.

1. First, identify your concepts! We can identify 3 concepts - youth, campaign, and eating disorder.

2. Identify if there are any synonyms. Synonyms can act as keywords when forming a search statement. For example:

youth campaign eating disorder
teenager marketing anorexia
young people promotion bulimia


3.Use and to combine different concepts, e.g.  Youth and campaign and "eating disorder"

4. Use  or to combine similar concepts, and use brackets () to group these synonyms together, e.g. (youth or teen*)

5. Use * to find variant forms of the root word, e.g. teen* will retrieve teen, teens, teenagers, teenage..

6. Use " " when searching for common phrases or theories, e.g. "eating disorder"

Thus, a possible search statement we can use in this example is: 

(anorexi* OR bulimi* OR "eat* disorder") AND (campaign OR marketing) AND (youth OR teen* OR young)

Boolean Operator: AND


Youth AND anorexia

Youth AND "eating disorder"

Boolean Operator: OR


"Eating disorder" OR anorexia OR bulimia

Campaign OR marketing

Truncation, Phrase Search, Search Term Grouping


The symbol to use for truncation is the asterisk *. Truncation will retrieve the variant forms of a word & the variant spelling


colo*r = colour, color

politic* = politics, politically, political…

anorex* = anorexia, anorexic

Phrase Search

The symbol to use for phrase search is quotation marks " " .


"eating disorder" , "weight management"

Search Term Grouping

Use parentheses (  ) for grouping similar or related words


youth AND campaign AND (anorexia OR bulimia)

Boolean Operator: NOT


"Eating disorder" NOT anorexia