Learn how to search with Boolean Operators
Boolean can be complex, but let's make it simple
Nick Lemen avatar
Written by Nick Lemen
Updated over a week ago

This article provides an overview of the basics of Boolean searching. To learn more about Boolean, we suggest visiting the Muck Rack Academy and taking our Boolean Basics and Boolean Advanced courses.

If you prefer to learn through the Help Center, scroll beyond the video and enrollment link for our introductory overview of Boolean search.

Take our Academy courses on Boolean Searching:

Start with the right mindset

The first thing you need to understand about any type of research is that it’s a process. Usually, you can’t simply decide on a topic and then go find the exact contacts or content that you need. The process may have dead ends and sometimes you may even need to start over.

Remember that research is also a very creative process. You could do a very broad search in Muck Rack to see what comes up. Follow a few links, stay aware and notice any synonyms, names, or alternative terms that appear in these preliminary searches.

Make lists of potential related subjects or concepts that might help focus your interests. Stay flexible, and don’t be too quick to fixate on the very first thing you find.

Keyword searching vs. Boolean searching

Keyword searching will search for keywords anywhere in a result record, such as the title or body of an article. Boolean searching uses operators such as AND, OR, and NOT to refine your search terms.

Example of a keyword search:


Example of a Boolean search:


We need additional tools to broaden or narrow a search. To do so, you can use special Boolean terms in conjunction with your keywords and phrases. These are the foundational Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT. We also have symbols that function the same as the AND, OR, and NOT operators: A plus sign (+) can be used in lieu of AND, a comma (,) can be used in lieu of OR, and a minus sign (-) can be used in lieu of NOT. For example:

Tesla AND CEO can also be written as Tesla + CEO

"Elon Musk" OR Tesla can also be written as "Elon Musk", Tesla

Tesla NOT "Nikola Tesla" can also be written as Tesla - "Nikola Tesla"

Using "quotation marks"

Quotation marks must be used when searching for exact phrases of more than one word.

For example: "Elon Musk" will only return mentions of "Elon Musk"

If you searched for Elon Musk without the quotation marks, Muck Rack will split up the words Elon and Musk and highlight them as relevant matches even when not mentioned as an exact phrase. It's unlikely that Elon will drop a perfume/cologne line soon (e.g. Elon's Musk: the essence of Elon), so the search without quotation marks won't be helpful.

Combining "quotation marks" AND Boolean operators

Using the AND operator narrows your search by instructing the database to search for all of the reporter bios, tweets and articles containing the first word and then for all of the reporter bios, tweets and articles containing the second word. This search will only display bios, tweets and articles that contain both words/phrases.

Tesla AND "Model 3"

The OR operator broadens your search to include either terms that you search for. This search is especially helpful if you’re looking for multiple terms, variations of spelling, etc. This will give you many, many results depending on your terms.

Tesla OR "Elon Musk"

The NOT operator narrows your search by excluding terms that you do not want to discover.

Tesla NOT "Nikola Tesla"

Got the basics down? Test your skills with nesting

For advanced users, you can combine what you have learned here and use a concept called nesting where you use terms and operators alongside parentheses.

Tesla AND ("Elon Musk" OR "Model 3")

This search will display bios, tweets and articles that contain both Tesla AND "Elon Musk" in addition to bios, tweets and articles that contain both Tesla AND "Model 3".

Here's another way to write the search above:

(Tesla AND "Elon Musk") OR (Tesla AND "Model 3")

Thoughtful and careful use of Boolean operators with specific search terms related to your topic will save you time and help you find the most appropriate contacts and content. You'll find our full glossary of Boolean operators and modifiers that we support listed here.

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