The Boolean is Dead, Long Live the Boolean! Natural Language versus Boolean Searching in Introductory Undergraduate Instruction

M. Sara Lowe, Bronwen K. Maxson, Sean M. Stone, Willie Miller, Eric Snajdr, Kathleen Hanna


Boolean logic can be a difficult concept for first‐year, introductory students to grasp. This paper compares the results of Boolean and natural language searching across several databases with searches created from student research questions. Performance differences between databases varied. Overall, natural search language is at least as good as Boolean searching. With evidence that students struggle to grasp Boolean searching, and may not use it even after instruction, it could be left out of first‐year instruction, freeing up valuable class time to focus on concepts such as question development and source evaluation. As the Framework for Information Literary does not specifically address Boolean operators, the authors suggest it should have less prominence in first‐year Information Literacy instruction.

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Copyright M. Sara Lowe, Bronwen K. Maxson, Sean M. Stone, Willie Miller, Eric Snajdr, Kathleen Hanna

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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