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.
|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.|
Boolean operators consist of AND, OR, NOT, which are used to restrict searches in different ways.
Wildcards are symbols that represent any combination of letters, returning all possible variations of a search term in results.
|one or no characters||!||?|
|exactly one character||?||#||?||?||*||?||#||*|
|one or many characters||*||*||$n2 (or any number)||*||$2 (or any number)|
Truncation uses a wildcard character to search for all possible endings of a word.
|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 operators are shorthand notations used with a number to indicate how close a search term should appear to another search term.
|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)|