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Database Help: Proximity searching

Using Proximity Searching

In Searching in a Database, we looked at using search operators to combine search terms. AND is the operator that ensures search results contain both or all terms.

In some databases, you can use a proximity operator to specify that your search terms must be close to – that is, within a certain number of words of – each other. This is narrower than a keyword-search, and broader than a phrase-search, so is a compromise between those two different methods of searching.

The proximity operator is usually a letter or word, followed by a number. You can specify the number, and it will determine the number of words between your two search terms. The higher the number, the more results you will get, and the less relevant they might be.

In the EBSCOhost example below, the database will search for politic* within 4 words of australia*:

This search uses politic* N4 australia* across the main fields of each record

Proximity operators in the major database platforms:

  • EBSCOhost         Nn
  • ProQuest             NEAR/n
  • Informit                "term"~        eg: "debt recovery"~5  finds content with debt and recovery within five words of each other
  • Ovid                     ADJn
  • Scopus                 W/n
  • Web of Science    NEAR/n

where n is the number you nominate.

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