If you search a catalog or database and receive a large number of results, add a limit or additional keyword in order to retrieve a manageable and relevant number of results to review. At the same time overly narrow search terms can return too few results. One way of solving both problems is to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which allow you to limit or expand searches depending on your needs.
For example, a search for material culture AND religion will return items that contain both concepts":
material culture OR artifact returns items that contain either one of the concepts or both:
united states NOT latin america returns items that talk about the United States of America but do not mention Latin America:
An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("material culture") or titles:
For example, children's bibles"
will search for those words in that order, finding, among other titles, the 2012 book Text, Image and Otherness in Children's Bible: What is in the Picture?
Truncation and Wildcards:
Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.
For example, one could search for politic* to find poltic, politics, political, politicking, and so on.
Wildcard searches are for differences within words: a search for wom?n will return results for woman, women, and womyn.
When pairing two or more keywords with another keyword, it is important to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.
("material culture" OR artifact*) AND (relig* OR judaism OR christian* OR islam*) AND ("united states" OR america*) NOT history will return results for the union of the three subject areas with an emphasis on the contemporary rather than the historical.
Results include: "Believing in Elvis: Popular Piety in Material Culture" by Erika Doss IN Practicing religion in the age of the media: explorations in media, religion, and culture. Columbia University Press, 2002.