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Graduate Student Research Survival Skills: Advanced Keyword Searching

Proximity Searches in Ebscohost

In EBSCOHOST databases (anytime you see this icon in the upper left), you can do proximity searches.

Near Operator (N) - N5 finds the words if they are within five words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.

For example, type tax N5 reform to find results that would match tax reform as well as reform of income tax.

Within Operator (W) - In the following example, W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order in which you entered them.

For example, type tax W8 reform to find results that would match tax reform but would not match reform of income tax.

In addition, multiple terms can be used on either side of the operator. See the following examples:

  • (baseball or football or basketball) N5 (teams or players)
  • oil W3 (disaster OR clean-up OR contamination)


In real life, you'd do this to tighten up a keyword search (but not too tight). By making sure the words are close to each other, the chance the article is relevant increases from just a regular keywords-anywhere search.

Parentheses

What if there are two are more common or related words and you want to include both of them in your search?  You’ll use parentheses – it works like an algebraic equation.

You enter your search into the database like so:

Example (blue or harvest) moon. You’ll get results that include blue and moon and harvest and moon.

(Soviet or Russia) “Cold War”

You’ll get results that include Soviet and “Cold War” AND Russia and “Cold War.”

If you have been doing searches like blue or harvest moon, you’ll get results back that feature only the word blue together with results that mix harvest and moon. No blue moon exactly, just blue….skies, bells, tooth, etc…

The parentheses make sure (those words go together.)

Refresher on Keyword Searching

AND

"Green energy" and economics results with both terms appearing anywhere in the document. The quotes around "green energy" searches for the phrase "green energy" instead of individual words.

Real-life use: REFINES your search. You'd do this search to get green energy articles that concentrate more on the economic side of green energy, for example.

NOT

Rejects articles that contain a word or phrase. Example: You're interested in animals but NOT birds.

Real-life use: REFINES a search. For a topic with many subcategories, takes out what you don't want.

OR

Green energy or solar. Gets articles with either "green energy" or solar.

Real-life use: EXPANDS your search. For example, when your topic is called a couple of different things.

Tip: Use advanced searching techniques like the parentheses here: (baseball or football) and (advertising or marketing)