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Effective Searching in Psychology: Exact Phrases/Proximity

Content by Sue Collins, Maintained by Ana Van Gulick

Exact Phrases/Proximity

Exact phrases can usually be searched by putting quotations marks around the words:

"world history"

"united states"

Proximity searching lets you specify the distance between your search terms.  This can be really helpful for databases that are full text.  In the 3 Psychology databases from EBSCOHost (PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PsycCRITIQUES), there are 2 proximity operators:

(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.

There are no proximity operators in PubMed.

Google Scholar-AROUND(X) where X is the number of words you want between your search terms.  AROUND must be in caps.