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Research Services Training

Types of searches

Credit: KateTheLibrarian @ The University of Regina

Nesting in keyword searches utilizes parentheses to clarify relationships between terms. Most of the time, words or phrases enclosed with parentheses are linked by the Boolean Operator "OR."

Use nesting when you are trying to link two or more concepts that can be represented by synonyms in order to more comprehensive results.

Searches are processed from left to right unless parentheses are present.

Search examples

Stop words that are NOT searched by databases often include articles, prepositions and conjunctions.  This is important to know should you want to search for an items that include a stop word because some databases recognize quotes placed around them. For example, searching by keyword for out "of" africa retrieves Out of Africa.  Without the quotemarks around "of", the database would look for every occurence of the word out and every occurence of the word africa, retrieving many more results.  

Check each database's help screens for specifics unique to the database.

Examples of common stop words:  

  • a
  • an
  • the
  • in
  • of
  • if
  • into

Each record contains specific, searchable areas of information called "fields".   

Common fields include:

  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor

Truncation is another word for stemming. The truncation symbol is the asterisk in most databases, but not always. Check database help screens.

Use truncation when:

1) you want to get more results or every variation of a word root

Example: adolescen* retrieves adolescent, adolescents, adolescence

2) when you're unsure of spelling

A wildcard searches for embedded characters and allows for variant spellings or meanings.The wildcard symbol is the pound sign in many databases. 

Use wildcard when:

1) you're searching for a word that is spelling differently in American or British English

Example: col#r retrieves color, colour 

 2) you're searching for variant meanings, such as single/plural

Example: wom#n retrieves woman, women




‚ÄčPlace double quotes around 2 or more words when you want to retrieve an exact match.  This convention is used by every database, from Academic Search to WorldCat, including Google and Google Scholar. It is also a very effective method for limiting the number of search results displayed.  


Common proximity connectors or operators are near and with

Proximity searching is useful for: 

1) searching full text databases (i.e., no subject headings) for finding words near each other or within a set number of characters apart. 

2) searching full text of articles or eBooks for that "needle in the haystack".

See examples of proximity commands from the Colorado State University Libraries




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