Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017     Views: 7423

To preserve the logic of your search when using multiple Boolean operators,  just group your keywords with parentheses.  Librarians call this nesting.  It looks complicated, but is really fairly simple.

Here's an example:

Suppose you want to write about the impact of learning environments on kids of all ages.  Normally, to capture articles about the different age groups, you'd have run searches for several different combinations of keywords, like these:

  • learning environment AND children
  • learning environment AND adolescents
  • learning environment AND teenagers

Nesting lets you run all three of those searches at once.  Here's how to create a nested search string:

1.  Start by typing all of your keywords out, keeping all of the similar keywords (or synonyms) together.  In our example, the similar terms are the ones that refer to the age of the children. 

  • learning environment children adolescents teenagers

2.  Now place parentheses around the similar terms.

  • learning environment (children adolescents teenagers)

3.  Connect all of your similar terms with OR.

  • learning environment (children OR adolescents OR teenagers)

4.  Connect any of the other keywords to each other (and to your parentheses) with AND.

  • learning environment AND (children OR adolescents OR teenagers)

5.  Click search!  You should see articles about learning environments for all of the age groups in your parentheses.


NOTE:  library databases offer another way to combine multiple searches.  Look for "advanced search" options, then use the multiple field boxes to fill in your keywords (again, keeping similar terms together).  Then, use the drop-down menus to select the Boolean operators.  Here is an example from Summon's advanced search:

Nesting in Summon

See also