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Information searching


After you have listed search terms and subject terms describing your topic, you create a search statement with them. Then, you will choose the source where you will search with the statement.

Search techniques

In search statements, various search techniques, such as Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), phrase search, truncation and wildcard symbols, are used to change your information need into something that the database can understand. Try searching with different combinations of search terms and several search statements for best search results.

Boolean operators

Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT are used to combine search terms into search statements. They are usually written in all capital letters, so that the database differentiates their function from other words. In some databases you can choose the operator, for example, from a drop-down menu, so you do not have to type them. NB! In Finna, the AND operator is automatically applied to search terms which have an empty space between them.


The AND operator searches for results including ALL search terms.

"renewable energy" AND attitudes


The OR operator searches for results including one or several search terms. Usually used to combine synonyms and terms of the same topic.

green OR renewable OR sustainable


The NOT operator excludes results with the search term. Be careful when using the NOT operator, there is a risk of missing also relevant sources!

"social media" NOT Facebook

Different operators in the same search statement

You can combine search statements to other statements and search terms with Boolean operators. However, you have to separate different operators from each other with parentheses () in order to maintain the intended logic of the search. Inside the parentheses, there must always be a search statement with one type of Boolean operator. 

Example: You are searching for literature on the politics of renewable energy
("renewable natural resources" OR "renewable energy sources" OR bioeconomy) AND (“energy policy” OR “environment policy”)
This search statement will give search results including at least one of the terms renewable natural resources, renewable energy sources or bioeconomy and also one of the terms energy policy or environment policy.


Phrase search

Phrase search is used to search for concepts that consist of two or more words. By adding quotation marks around the concept, you get search results that include the words in that exact order. Longer sentences are not phrases because the search might be too detailed and thus impossible for the search engine or database to match. Single words are not phrases either but hyphenated words are.

Examples of phrase search in search statements:
"social media" AND Facebook
"human resource management" AN
D "remote management"
work AND "self-leadership"


By truncating the search term, you can search various word endings and spellings. The most common truncation symbols are, depending on the database, the asterisk * and question mark ?. Always check the database's own instructions for the correct symbol. In some databases, you can truncate from the beginning of the word, which gives you terms ending with the word. Note that truncation symbols do not usually work with phrases inside quotation marks.

Examples of truncation:
sourc* > source, sources, sourcing
journalis* > journalist, journalism


By using a wildcard, you can replace one or several characters/letters in a search term. The wildcard is convenient with search terms that can be spelled in several ways. The wildcard symbol is usually a question mark ?, but it can vary from database to database, so always check the instructions.

Examples of wildcards:
colo?r > color, colour
organi?ation > organization, organisation

Choosing information sources

Books, journals, encyclopedia, standards, statistics, laws, patents, databases, online resources, experts - there are many sources of information!

Choosing the information source is influenced by your topic, information need and criteria. It is good to search for information from several different sources, printed and electronic.

Knowing the essential information sources and learning to use the key databases in your field is helpful. Disciplines differ when it comes to publication cultures and practices. So-called "hard sciences" focus on international peer reviewed journals, whereas national books and journals are more important for humanities and social sciences. It is, however, sometimes possible to find relevant information from sources which are not directly related to your field.

Read more about the different Finna search services in this LibGuide's subpage Finna search services.

Database types

Databases have different kinds of materials: some can, for example, only have e-books, some e-journals, some both. In Finna, you will find more information about a database by clicking its name.

The availability of material can vary from mere citations to full text, so always check the database in question. Most databases are combinations of different database types, for example, some articles in the database are available in full text but some only have an abstract.

Full text databases include articles in full text, as well as references.

Bibliographic databases include references to where the article has been published, and possibly an abstract. The article is not necessary included in full text, which means that you have to search it elsewhere.

Citation databases include citations between articles: who has cited the article and how many times has it been cited in all.

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