search twitter using boolean logic

Today’s tip is one of those ideas that seems obvious when you think about it, but many seem to overlook. While information professionals know to use boolean logic and nested parenthesis in formal databases, many have not thought to apply the same logic to social media sites or specialised search engines.

Case in point: Twitter!

Sure, you can search for a specific hashtag or user, but you can also combine these things together in complex ways. Let’s look at a few examples…

Example 1: Job searching

I’ve found complex twitter searching to be particularly useful when looking for vacant job postings (for myself and for others). Let’s say you’re looking for a position in the sustainability or environmental sector.

(sustainability OR environment OR environmental OR renewable OR clean OR energy) AND (#job OR #jobs OR #UKjobs OR recruit OR recruiting OR join OR vacant OR vacancy OR apply OR join)

See results of the search above here. 

From here, you can further narrow down your search to local jobs by clicking “near me” from the dropdown menu or include keywords for the locations you are interested in as a separate concept.

Example 2: I saw that thing on that feed but now I can’t find it!

Have you ever tried to find something on Twitter, and just scrolled continuously through a user’s tweets hoping that it will miraculously surface? Yeah, me neither…..

 

One way to find this elusive information is to use keywords in the search box along with a username. For example, maybe I remember some cool story about archival research in newspapers at Library of Congress.

@librarycongress newspapers

This search will find instances where Library of Congress has tweeted or have been mentioned in a tweet using the term newspapers:

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Twitter search for “@librarycongress newspapers”

 

The above can also be nested within boolean logic and parenthesis.

Twitter, of course, wasn’t build for expert searching, so it’s far from a perfect interface. Some of the downsides include:

  • No truncation options
  • It’s difficult – if not impossible – to search systematically. Since Twitter is a proprietary platform and not necessarily transparent about the way its search interface works, it’s difficult to know exactly how it interprets your logic.
  • There’s no native ability to download results (although it can be accomplished through 3rd party programs).

Have you used Twitter for expert searching? Share your tips in the comments below, or contact me.

Yes, Virginia, it is possible to annotate your searches!

My inaugural tip for the Expert Searching blog comes, fittingly, through a chain of colleagues passed down mentor to mentee. I believe this tip originates from the irreplaceable Dean Guistini of HLWiki.
Ovid Medline recently added a feature to add search strategy annotations, but it’s clunky and annoying. To add annotations, you have to click several times, and to top it off, they aren’t even visible while constructing and executing the search. How useless is that?
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Built-in annotations in Ovid Medline
However, there’s a secret nobody has told you: it’s always been possible to add annotations to your searches! Simply add square brackets to the end of any line. Any text inside the square brackets is meant to be read by people only; the computer disregards this content. These in-text annotations are a useful way to document the search process and to see what sets of concepts you are combining.
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In-text annotations in Ovid Medline
Another way to use the square brackets are to add them to a line all by themselves. This helps separate parts of the search very clearly. If you’re testing out lots of different terms and combining concepts all over the place, it’s a good way to look back on your work and see what’s going on.
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Line annotations in Ovid Medline
Why annotate your work?
  • Others will be able to understand your search strategy
  • You will be able to understand your search strategy!
  • It shows your thought process and rationale for making different decisions
  • It makes everyone happy because it doesn’t look like gibberish
That’s it for today; see you all next week!
Amanda

Why I started this blog

Hello, world!

After many failed attempts to start blogs in the past, I am once again crawling out of the woodwork to share my knowledge (such as it is…) with the world.

I’m an information specialist (or medical librarian, depending on your geography and political persuasion). Basically, I spend the majority of my time using medical databases, search engines, and hard to use websites. I find the unfindable! I search for the unsearchable! Sometimes searching for stuff is pretty straightforward. But a lot of the time – especially in medicine – the amount of information and the way it’s organised can be pretty overwhelming.

Over the years, I’ve found some useful ways of efficiently navigating databases, search engines, and hard to search websites. My colleagues have shared some pretty cool tricks, too. I’ve created this website as a way for expert searchers to share expertise, pick up new tips, and generally share the love.

Want to contribute? Contact me!