Skip to Main Content
NAU Cline Library logo

A Guide to Supply Chain Management

Follow the steps in this colum to learn database searching techniques.

Learn to speak database:
  1. Combine your search terms using AND, OR, or NOT.
  2. Use phrase searching when relevant.
  3. Search for different word endings.
  4. Know strategies for broadening or narrowing your search.
  5. Resort your search results.
down pointing arrow

1. Combine your search terms using AND, OR or NOT.

Use AND, OR, or NOT to connect concepts together to broaden or narrow your search, or to eliminate concepts you don't want searched. FYI, these three words (AND, OR, and NOT) are called Boolean operators.

  • AND - narrows a search: "Supply Chain" AND "Red Bull" --articles retrieved must have both terms
  • OR - broadens a search:  "Supply Chain" OR "Distribution Channels" -- articles retrieved may have either term
  • NOT - narrows by excluding items: "Supply Chain" NOT "Raw Materials" -- articles with the phrase "dual beam" will not be retrieved

Capitalize AND, OR, and NOT -- this tells the database that the word is a "search operator" and not a keyword that it should be searching for.

2. Use phrase searching, when relevant.

To get more relevant results, use quotation marks to force the database to find an exact phrase, as in this search:

"supply chain" AND "Red Bull""

Be careful about using phrase searching; it is not always to your advantage. In the example above, putting quotes around supply chain might eliminate articles where authors use these phrases instead: suppliers, supplied, suppling, etc.

Or, suppose your search is this:

supply chain AND "Red Bull energy drink"

If you force a database to retrieve the phrase "Red Bull Energy Drink" then you might miss articles where authors simply refer to the product as Red Bull.

Experiment with your searches to see what works best.

3. Search for different word endings.

In many databases, an asterisk (*) tells the database to search for different word endings so that you don't have to enter and search all variations of a word.

Instead of searching (supply chain OR suppliers OR supplies) just search suppl* --it's easier!

4. Know strategies for broadening or narrowing your search.

To broaden searches and get more results, try these tips:

  • Use more synonyms connected with OR, as in: (costs OR ecomonics OR financing OR funding).
  • Use broader terms. Underwater tunnels or railway tunnels are broader terms than a specific underwater tunnel like the Channel Tunnel.

To narrow searches and get fewer results, try these tips:

  • Use search refinements that the database provides like limiting by language, a span of years, document type, source, etc.
  • Try searching some or all of your search terms in more restrictive fields, such as the title field.

5. Resort your search results

Pay attention to how your results are sorted. Many databases default to delivering results showing the most recently published articles first. Others default to showing most relevant articles first. If your search results are sorted by most recently published articles first, try resorting by relevance to see if some good articles rise to the top. 

Get Fewer Results Using "AND"

AND narrows your search

Venn-diagram for narrowing search using AND

This example returns results with both terms:

"Supply Chain" AND "Red Bull"

Get More Results Using "OR"

OR broadens your search

Venn-diagram to broaden search using OR

This example returns results with either term:

"Supply Chain" OR "Suppliers"

Get Fewer Results Using "NOT"

NOT excludes results that use a specific term

Venn-diagram for excluding results form search using NOT

This example returns results with the term "Inventory" but not the term "Control" :

"Inventory" NOT "Control"