How to Do a Boolean Search in Google

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There are two basic Boolean search commands supported in Google: AND and OR, and they mean just what they presume to mean.

You can use Boolean searches to help specify what it is you want to find, whether to make it more specific (using AND) or less specific (which is what OR is for).

Using the AND Boolean Operator

Use AND searches in Google to search for all the search terms you specify. It's helpful to use AND when you want to make sure that the topic you're researching is actually the topic you'll get in the search results.

As an example, say you search the word Amazon on Google. The results will most likely show you things on Amazon.com, like the homepage of the site, their Twitter account, Amazon Prime information and other things you can buy on Amazon.com.

However, if you were instead looking for information on the Amazon rainforest, even searching for Amazon rainforestmight give you results that are just about Amazon.com or the word "Amazon" in general. To make sure each search result includes both the words "Amazon" and "rainforest," you want to use the AND operator.

Examples:

  • Amazon AND rainforest
  • sausage AND biscuits
  • news AND war AND president

Using the OR Boolean Operator

Google uses the OR operator to search for one term or the other one. This means the article can contain either word but doesn't have to include both. This usually works well when you use two similar words or words that might be interchangeable.

Some writers will choose the word "draw" instead of "sketch" when talking about drawings, for example. In this case, it'd be helpful to tell Google that you don't care which word is used since they both mean basically the same thing.

You can see how the OR operator is different from AND when you compare the results of how to draw OR paint versus how to draw AND paint.

Since the former gives Google the freedom to show you more content (since either word can be used), there are much more results than if you restrict the search to needing both words (like in the AND example).

You can also use the break (|) character in place of OR (it's the one attached to the forward slash key).

Examples:

  • how to draw OR paint
  • primal OR paleo recipes
  • red OR yellow triangle

How to Combine Boolean Searches and Use Exact Phrases

If you're searching for a phrase rather than just a single word, you can group the words together with quotation marks.

For instance, searching for "sausage biscuits" (with the quotes included) will only show results for phrases that include the words together without anything between them. It will ignore phrases like sausage and cheese biscuits.

However, using "sausage biscuits" | "cheese sauce" will give results of either exact phrase, so you'll find articles that talk about cheese sauce but also sausage biscuits.

If you're searching for more than one phrase or keyword in addition to the Boolean, you can group them with parenthesis, such as recipes gravy (sausage | biscuit) to search for gravy recipes for either sausages or biscuits. You could even combine exact phrases and search for "sausage biscuit" (recipe | review).

To follow in this example, if you want to make sure all of Google's results show you paleo sausage recipes that include cheese, one example could be to type (with quotes) "paleo recipe" (sausage AND cheese).