# EnAct AIM

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```							                                     EnAct AIM
A UDL Introduction to Boolean Logic

Introduction
Ying Zhong: Once the students understand how a research paper is structured,
they’ll need to use library resources to conduct their literature review. In order to retrieve
literature efficiently, the students need to master certain skills when searching online
catalog or research databases. You might ask why it is still important to learn such skills
when Google is so popular and easy to use. Well, it is true that Google is quick and
simple. But you probably will retrieve lots of irrelevant results because Google is unable
to access a great deal of the scholarly information available to students. So it’s critical to
teach your students to how to search effectively in order for them to retrieve appropriate
sources.

To conduct an effective search, a key tool is the use of Boolean logic. Don’t panic if you
have never heard of Boolean. A quick way to learn Boolean is to remember three
operators: AND, OR, NOT. Each operator combines keywords in a unique way... (Insert
Slide)

Each circle represents a concept. On each line there are two concepts and a Boolean term
that indicates the desired relationship between those two concepts. Notice that the two
circles overlap. Using the first line as an example, “girls” and “jeans”; in a group of
people, some girls will be wearing jeans. These girls are represented by the intersection
of the two circles. Some girls will not be wearing jeans. Girls not wearing jeans are
represented by the rest of the circle, the part that is outside of the jeans circle. Some
students will be wearing jeans, but they are not girls, presumable boys. They will be
represented by the part of the circle that does not overlap the “girls” circle. As you can
tell from the diagram, if you use AND to connect two concepts, you will get ONLY the
overlapping part; girls wearing jeans.

When using OR, you will get the combination of the two concepts. For example, if you
ask survey a group of people whether they like Coke or Pepsi, some people will say they
prefer Coke. Others will say they like Pepsi and some will say they like both. On the
diagram the people who like Coke are represented by the part of the “Coke” circle that
does not overlap the “Pepsi circle”. The people who like Pepsi are represented by the
part of the circle that does not overlap the Coke circle. The people who like both are
represented by the area where the two circles overlap. So the people who like Coke OR
Pepsi is represented by both circles, including the overlapping part.

When you use NOT to connect two concepts, you will exclude the area of one whole
circle. For example, you want to find out about all different types of gambling, but do
not want to include the lottery in your study. You would use the Boolean term NOT,
gambling NOT lottery. In our diagram, this result is represented by the portion of the
gambling circle that does not overlap the lottery circle. The tricky part of Boolean is the
use of the terms AND,and OR because they are exactly contrary to our daily English. In
our daily English, if I say “I’d like to have a Pepsi OR a Coke”, I’ll only get one thing,
either Pepsi or Coke. However, if I search Pepsi OR Coke in a database, I’ll retrieve the
articles talking about Pepsi, about Coke, or both. Let’s also take a look at AND. In our
daily English, if I say “I’d like to have a Pizza AND a Burger”. I’ll get both. However,
when searching Pizza AND Burger in a database, I’ll only find the items talking about
Pizza and Burger at the same time. Any items that ONLY talks about Pizza or ONLY
talks about Burger will be filtered out. Therefore, unlike the case in daily English, the
Boolean operator OR broadens your search; operator AND narrows your search.

Now, here is an exercise that you may use in your class to check if your students really
understand Boolean logic.
Have everyone in the class stand up.
Now, ask “boys AND glasses” to sit down.
Only the boys who wear glasses should sit.
Point this out to your class.
Next, ask “girls AND Jeans” to sit down
Point out that only the girls wearing jeans will sit.
At this point, if your students are doing fine, you may try something even more
complicated, such as (Boys AND backpack) or (Girls AND Jeans) could sit down.
Explain to your class that both the first group to sit down, boys and glasses, and the
second group to sit down (girls and jeans) need to sit.

Great! Since you already helped your students understand how Boolean operators work,
let’s go ahead and apply them to database searching. I will give you two terms:
overweight and confidence. We’ll combine the two words with each Boolean operator
and we’ll compare the results.

First of all, we’ll put overweight in one box, and confidence in the other, make sure we
choose AND as the connector. We’ll get 240 results. AND helps us find only those items
containing both terms. We only get references that discuss both confidence and being
overweight.

Now, let’s keep the two words in the box but use OR as the connector. This time we’ve
got a lot more hits because OR broadens the search. Items about overweight or items
about confidence will be pulled up.

Let’s also try NOT. Generally, using NOT will allow us to exclude a specific area within
a larger subject. This search provides references about overweight that specifically do
not discuss the topic of confidence.
Searching Strategy Example One

Dr. Kim Brown: I’m teaching a course in adolescent development and I ask my
students to search on a topic:
What is the behavior of adolescents before and after playing a violent video game?
But quite often, my students don’t know where to start.

Ying Zhong: It is very common that our students will simply put the whole sentence
into a searching box. Of course, the results will be very disappointing if they did so. So
our students should understand that to search effectively, they need to form a efficient
searching strategy like this (insert slide)

Dr. Kim Brown: In our case, the topic is clearly stated.
Ying Zhong: Yes, indeed. So the next thing we need to do is to break the topic into
concepts.

Dr. Kim Brown: Which are adolescents and video games.
Ying Zhong: We also want to take other expressions into consideration. For
instance, not all the people will use adolescent to describe teens. Words such as kids and
teens might also be used to describe adolescents. Remember that we are dealing with a
computer, a machine. We have to tell the machine that we are interested in kids, teens,
and adolescents. If not, the computer will have no idea that those terms could have the
same meaning.

Dr. Kim Brown: It’s interesting to think about the relation between the synonyms.
Since we want to include all the terms to describe adolescents into our search, we need to
use OR to combine them and make our search broader.

Ying Zhong: Meanwhile, we want to find items containing all the three concepts of
our term paper’s topic. So we’ll use AND to connect the three concepts. Here is our
search strategy (Insert Slide)

Dr. Kim Brown: This is how we put everything together in our search:
Each circle represents one of our concepts. For the concept adolescents we will also
search using the words children and teens. So for our first concept we input adolescents
OR teens OR children”. This will enable the computer to find references that use any of
these three words. Similarly we input “video games or electronic games” for our second
concept because some people use the term video games and other electronic games. For
our third concept, there are many synonyms for the word “violence”, such as aggression
or antisocial. So we will add these two synonyms to our search, again separated by the
Boolean term OR so that the computer will find references that use any of these three
terms.
The three concepts shown, by our circles, are connected by the Boolean term “AND”. By
using “AND” our search will only give us references that contain concept 1 and concept
2 and concept 3. If the reference discusses adolescents and video games but does not
mention violence, aggression or antisocial, then it will not be included in our search
results. If it includes video games and violence but does not talk about adolescents, teens
or children then the reference will not be included in our search results. All three
concepts must be discussed in the reference for the reference to be included in our search
results.

The next slide is the search page for a commonly used reference database called
Academic Search Elite. You can see how our three concepts with the different synonyms
would be input into the search engine. The first line contains all three terms for concept
1, adolescents OR children OR teens. The second line contains the two terms for concept
2, video games OR electronic games. Note that between the first line and the second line
is the Boolean term “AND”. The third line contains the three terms of our third concept
and again concept 2 and concept 3 are separated by the Boolean term “AND”.

Searching Strategy Example Two

Dr. Staci Lowey: Here is another example for the use of Boolean logic in literature
searches. This one involves science themes. The assignment is to write a research paper
on earthquake hazards in California. Specifically, focus on earthquakes along the smaller
faults, rather than the San Andreas. These smaller faults typically pose the greatest
danger.

SO now let’s go back to the three steps of our Searching Strategy.
First, Develop a Research Topic. This is done for you in the assignment.
What are the earthquake hazards on the smaller faults in California?

Second, Divide the Topic into Concepts
earthquake
hazard
California
Smaller faults
The first three are obvious. You can search for earthquake AND hazard AND California.
The fourth one is a bit more difficult. How do you search for smaller faults? If you look
back to the assignment directions, it asks you to focus on faults other than the San
Andreas. Therefore, we want all faults that are NOT the San Andreas. So we can modify
our search.
Earthquake AND hazard AND California NOT San Andreas

The third step is to choose terms for each concept. We have one term for each concept,
however there are synonyms that may also be useful, particularly for the word “hazard”.
Instead of hazard we can also search for risk or danger.

Earthquake AND hazard OR risk OR danger AND California NOT San Andreas

Now lets look at the search results using Academic Search Elite
If we search earthquake AND hazard AND California we find 161 references
If we search earthquake AND risk AND California we find 108 references
If we search earthquake AND danger AND California we find 28 references
However if we combine all three terms for hazard, hazard OR risk OR danger we broaden
our search and find 270 references.

Now remember that we don’t want information on earthquakes along the San Andreas
Fault so we need to add a line and indicate NOT San Andreas.
When we do this, we remove the references that talk about the San Andreas Fault and
thus, reduce the number of references to 241.

Conclusion

Ying Zhong: Hopefully at this point your students feel confident to form an efficient
searching strategy using Boolean operators, AND, OR, NOT. Boolean search is not only
supported by research databases, but also by popular search engines, like Google.
Boolean search skill is a lifetime skill that will help your students find information
accurately and fast.

After the students conduct a thorough literature review on your topic, continue to take a
look at the other EnAct AIM video – The Research Paper: Identifying Sources,
Organizing Material, and Communicating Results

Our supporting documents can be downloaded from the website.

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