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Keyword vs. Subject Searching in Library Databases: Other Search Operators

Phrase Search

Use a phrase search to search for certain words as a group.  You can do a phrase search by enclosing a phrase in quotation marks to ensure that the database searches for those words as a group, in the specific order you provided.

Examples of phrase searches are: "economic stimulus package," "hurricane katrina," "gone with the wind," etc.

Truncation Marks

Truncation refers to a symbol that is added to the end of the root of a word to instruct the database to search for all forms of a word. The asterisk (*) is used in many databases for truncation.

Example: adolescen* retrieves adolescent, adolescents, or adolescence.

Example: alcohol* will find all words with the root of alcohol, such as alcoholic, alcoholics, alcoholism, and so on.

Proximity Operators

Proximity operators allow you to locate one word within a certain distance of another one. The symbols generally used in this type of search are w and n.  The w represents the word "within" and the n represents the word "near." This type of search is not available in all databases.

Near Operator (N) — finds words within x number of words from each other, regardless of the order in which they occur.

Example: television n2 violence would find "television violence" or "violence on television," but not "television may be the culprit in recent high school violence."

Within Operator (W) — finds words within x number of words from each other, in the order they are entered in the search.

Example: Franklin w2 Roosevelt would find Franklin Roosevelt or Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Franklin D. Roosevelt, but would not find Roosevelt Franklin.

Check the database help screens to see if proximity searching is available and if so, what format to use when entering a proximity search.