Thursday, March 8, 2012

Word Proximity Search in Databases

Ever wish you could do even more precise word searches than AND, OR, NOT in a database?

There are advanced and algebraic (more on that in a second) search features hidden in most databases.

First up: proximity searching. These searches allow you to search two words within a certain occurrence of each other.

Let's quote Ebscohost:

The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number (to specify the number of words). The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched, as follows:

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)

OK, see the algebra-like parantheses above?

It also works for searches like (Argentina or Brazil) and (inflation or devaluation) so you can search several words for each slot and still keep your intentions together.

Always click the help function of each database to see exactly how to use their special commands.

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