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  • Viet Thanh Nguyen’s bestselling novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, and a Carnegie Medal from the American Library Association. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Nguyen is also the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War.

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    Poet Tonya Foster is the author of the collection A Swarm of Bees in High Court. Her work has appeared in nocturnes, Callaloo, Traffic, Gulf Coast, and other journals. Her essays have appeared in NY Arts Magazine, NYFA Quarterly and The Poetry Project Newsletter. A co-editor of Third Mind: Teaching Creative Writing Through Visual Art, Foster teaches at California College of the Arts and lives in the Bay Area.

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Boolean Logic for Better Searching

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." --Pablo Picasso

Computers can be very effective tools to locate information, but they are ONLY machines. Computer output depends upon human input.

Computerized search mechanisms are based on Boolean logic. When you use the enter code words known as boolean operators you are telling the computer exactly how to perform a search which will be tailored to your specific needs.

The most commonly used code words are: AND, OR, and NOT. The phrase you enter into a search box is called the search string (or syntax)

Here are some diagrams to help explain the effects of these operators.

 

AND
This operator combines the individual words (terms) in order to create a more specific search.

It actually NARROWS your search.

Possible search strings (or syntax):

cats AND dogs

Some search engines use a plus (+) sign instead of the word AND.

+Cats +dogs 

boolean AND diagram

 

 

OR
This operator combines possible synonyms of the individual words in order to create a wider search.

It actually BROADENS your search.

Possible search strings (or syntax):

films OR movies OR motion pictures

 

boolean OR diagram

 

 

 

NOT 
This operator limits (reduces) your search results by excluding specific terms.

It actually NARROWS, in a very specific way, your search.

Possible search string (syntax):

dolphins NOT football

Some search engines use the minus sign (-) instead of the word NOT.

+Dolphins -football

boolean NOT diagram

Different search engines incorporate Boolean logic in different ways, but they all use it. Some assume AND, some OR. It is important to read the instructions for each search engine before entering your search terms. Info People publishes a nice search engine comparison guide which shows the differences in Boolean syntax used in the different engines: http://infopeople.org/search/chart.html

The use of quotation marks or parenthesis around phrases is a handy device to cause the computer to search for the exact phrase. For instance:

  • "American Beauty"
  • "computer graphics artist"
  • (motion pictures)

 

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