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Advanced Searching Techniques: Home

Learn a relatively simple set of techniques involving the use of operators, each with a specific meaning and function, that can greatly enhance the searching experience, saving time and effort while also improving results.

About Advanced Searching Techniques

Electronic databases that index scholarly material such as research books and journal articles can be very large, with some containing in excess of a million citations and full text items.  Typically, these databases not only index current items but have back files that can span several decades. 

A challenge faced by anyone searching these enormous repositories of information is to restrict search results to those most relevant to the topic at hand.  Otherwise, one must spend an inordinate  amount of time in reviewing items that aren’t useful, to find the few that are.

Learning a relatively simple set of techniques involving the use of operators, each with a specific meaning and function, can greatly enhance the searching experience, saving time and effort while also improving results. This guide was created for that reason. You will find tips on Boolean, wildcard, truncation, and proximity searches that will aid in finding more relevant results.

Please refer to the following tutorials for further explanation of searching techniques:

Please refer to the following pages for more information on each searching technique:

Quick Advanced Search Technique Guide

This is a quick reference guide on techniques you can add to your searches in order to get the most out of the information you find.
Please refer to the other pages associated with this guide or our advanced searching video for more information.

Boolean 

Boolean operators consist of AND, OR, NOT, which are used to restrict searches in different ways.

Boolean Operators EBSCO JSTOR Gale Proquest ScienceDirect Journals@Ovid LexisNexis
AND and and and and and and and
OR or ||  or  or  or  or  or  or
NOT not not not not not not and not

Wildcards

Wildcards are symbols that represent any combination of letters, returning all possible variations of a search term in results.

Wildcard Characters EBSCO JSTOR Gale Proquest ScienceDirect Journals@Ovid LexisNexis
one or no characters     !   ?  
exactly one character ? # ? ? * ? # *
one or many characters   * * $n2 (or any number) * $2 (or any number)  

Truncation 

Truncation uses a wildcard character to search for all possible endings of a word.

Truncation Characters EBSCO JSTOR Gale Proquest ScienceDirect Journals@Ovid LexisNexis
standard truncation * & ~ *  * * $ * : !
stemming (apply additional terms to query) expander #   (use the singular or root form of the word, it automatically searches for variants) (select the "included related terms" checkbox)  

Proximity   

Proximity operators are shorthand notations used with a number to indicate how close a search term should appear to another search term.

Proximity Operators EBSCO JSTOR Gale Proquest ScienceDirect Journals@Ovid LexisNexis
near N2                      (or any number)  

N2                          (or any number)

N/2                              (or any number) W/2                         (or any number) adj2                   (or any number) W/2                         (or any number)
within W2                (or any number) ~2                                      (or any number) W2                         (or any number) P/2                         (or any number) Pre/2                     (or any number)