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ABI INFORM: How to Search It

A guide to searching, viewing, printing and saving content provided by Proquest's ABI INFORM database, one of the library's premier business resources.

Using Boolean Operators to construct a search statement

How to Construct Search Statements

There are three logical operators frequently used in computer database searching: AND, OR, and NOT. These words when used in the context of database searching are called Boolean operators. These three words tell the computer how to combine and search for more than one word at a time.


  • Logical Operator: AND

The AND operator retrieves those records in the database that contain all of the words you entered. In other words, each record must contain all the words you entered as illustrated in the following search:

Find: reading comprehension and testing and adults

The computer will retrieve all of the records that have all three terms in the record. The use of AND will decrease the number of hits in your search results.


  • Logical Operator: OR

The OR operator retrieves those records in the database that contain any of the words entered as illustrated in the following search:

Find: testing or assessment or evaluation

The use of OR will probably increase the number of hits in your search results.


  • Logical Operator: NOT

The NOT operator eliminates those records containing a certain word or phrase. In searching for information on lunar eclipses, one strategy might be to search for

eclipse NOT solar

The NOT operator should be used cautiously, for you can NOT out records that would be useful to you. For example, if you want information on lunar eclipses, if you search eclipse NOT solar, you may eliminate some useful materials that discuss both solar and lunar eclipses. However, the NOT operator can be very useful when working with a word that can be used in two totally different senses. For example, the word dolphin can mean a sea creature, but it can also be used as the name of an NFL team. Example: Find: dolphins not football

Tips you'll need to know

Enter your search terms in the search box to perform a simple search, or click on the 'Advanced Search' link to open the advanced search dialog boxes.

  • Capitalization does not matter. You can use upper or lower case or any combination. The database ignores capitalization.

  • Regular Plurals and Possessives-- ABI/Inform automatically searches for regular plurals and possessives.  For example, searching computer will find computer, computers, and computer’s; security will find security, security’s, and securities.

  • Use double quotation marks ("") around two or more words that you want to search as an exact phrase. Examples: “mutual fund”  “field of dreams” “activity based costing” "computer based modeling"

Two words entered together will not be searched as if they were a phrase. For example, if you enter mutual fund without the double quotations, the search engine will retrieve documents that contain the words mutual and fund anywhere in any document.

  • Truncation-- The asterisk * may be used at the end of a word to retrieve all endings on that word. Examples: dream* retrieves dream, dreams, dreamy, dreamland, etc. “mutual fund“ and return*  (return* will find returning, returned).

  • The wildcard is the question mark (?).  To use the wildcard, enter your search terms and replace each unknown character with a ?.  ABI/Inform finds all citations of that word with the ? replaced by a letter. Example: ne?t will find neat, nest, or next.  It will not find net because the wildcard replaces a single character. Educat?? will find educator and educated, but will not find education.

Combining terms using Boolean logical operators

 Parentheses

  • Parentheses may be used to group terms. Example: (“cost reduction” or “product costing”) and “activity based costing” 

If you enter search terms combined with Boolean operators and do not use parentheses, the search engine assumes your search terms should be combined in a certain order. If you include operators such as AND and OR, it combines them in this order: NEAR   PRE   AND   OR  NOT For instance, a search on education AND elementary NOT secondary would be interpreted as (education AND elementary) NOT secondary. So in this case, (education AND elementary) is considered first. This search will return results regarding education with information on elementary but not secondary education.You can also use parentheses to control the order in which your search terms get combined, instead of using the standard operator precedence.

Proximity Operators

  • NEAR  Find articles where the first word appears n number of  words before or after the second word. Example: computer NEAR/3 careers 

  • PRE  Finds words where the first is found within n words in the same field as the second, but the first word must come first in the order. Example: securities pre/3 commission Finds Securities and Exchange Commission, Securities Regulatory Commission, and Securities Commission.  It will NOT find Commission on Security Regulation, however.

  • EXACT looks for your exact search term in its entirety, rather than as part of a larger term. Example: Type EXACT(“higher education”) in the Subject field Will retrieve: documents with the subject term "higher education" It will not retrieve: documents with the subject terms of “higher education administration”, “women in higher education”, etc. 

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