Search Basics

Cheat sheet for proximity operators in some of the library's key research databases

Proximity Operator Search Tips (By Database)

Database/PlatformSyntaxExplanation Example

EBSCO

Wn Finds the words within n words of one another in the order in which you enter them tax W8 reform  
Nn Finds the words within n words of one another, in any order tax N5 reform

LexisNexis Academic

PRE/n Finds the words within n words of one another, in the order in which you enter them pay PRE/3 television
W/n Finds the words within n words of one another, in any order william W/3 hearst
W/s Finds the words within the same sentence sanction W/s frivolous
W/p Finds the words within the same paragraph sanction W/p frivolous

ProQuest

PRE/n
or

P/n

Finds the words within n words of one another in the order in which you enter them

defense PRE/4 education

defense P/4 education

NEAR/n or

N/n

Find the words within n words of one another, in any order

women NEAR/3 media

women N/3 media

Proximity or Positional Operators

Some databases will allow the use of proximity or positional operators.  This means you can locate one word within a certain distance of another.  This is helpful when you don't want the preciseness of a phrase search but you also don't want the expansiveness of an AND search.  Not all databases provide this option but if they do it can include:

  • Adjacent
  • Near
  • Within

The symbols generaly used include: n or w or adj

The adj represents the word "adjacent"

The w represents the word "within"

The n represents the word "near"

Adjacent  (ADJ)  - terms in the search box must appear in the record next to (adjacent to) each other in the same order as you enter them.

Example:   civil adj rights

Near operator (N/x) - finds words within x number of words from each other and usually it is regardless of the order in which they appear.

Example:   ballistic n/3 missile

Within Operator (W/x) - finds words within x number of words from each other, and in the order they are entered

Example:   biological w/5 terrorism

If you are a Google user you might want to consult this GoogleGuide on Search Operators to help you conduct better Google searches.