by Elizabeth Dobler
I have always had trouble grasping the concept of Boolean logic (the use of the words “and,” “not,” “or,” along with +, -, and <>) when searching online. Since I use Google when I want to find information quickly, I am glad to see an evolution toward the acceptance of natural language in searches and away from the need for Boolean operators. In fact, Google has progressed so far that it “seems to know what I want,” as my 21-year-old son puts it. As much as I like Google, there are times when I need to search for more specialized information or materials that can only be accessed through a database. While databases are slowly becoming more “Google-like” in their search experience, many have not yet arrived.
I began researching Boolean logic and felt like I was reading a foreign language at times, encountering words and phrases such as trawl, query structure, interface, proximity operators, truncations, wildcards, and limiters. As an educated professional, if I struggle with Boolean searches, just think what it may be like for children who attempt them. Children may look for information on school library databases such as Destiny, Kids Infobits, or National Geographic Kids and not know where to start.
I recently found the Boolean search learning tool Boolify through KidzSearch. Boolify uses a drag-and-drop interface to aid users in constructing searches (that’s “query structure” for newbies). A search begins by dragging the green box to the search space and filling in a word or phrase. The search can then be optimized with refinement blocks such as “and” or “not.” With more practice, a user might like to further refine the search with a site filter (e.g., .edu, .org) or a file filter (e.g., .pdf). The color-coded boxes for refining the search help to keep ideas separated.
Once a search string has been created the view button converts it to a text-only version (called a command line) so the user can begin to learn how to create queries independently.
Boolify was created for children; it utilizes Google’s Safe Search strict-mode, filtering out adult content. The action of dragging the box gives the feeling of actively constructing a search, thus making the process more concrete for inexperienced learners. It’s a helpful tool for people of all ages who need a little extra support (like me).
Give Boolify a try if you are looking for a safe and easy way to search for information online.