Database Searching Guide: Proximity



It is often important to specify how far apart the words in relevant records should be.  This is particularly true when you are searching full text.  The simplest form of proximity, available in most databases, is to surround the words of a phrase in quotation marks.  This gets around the implicit AND convention referred to in section 1.  Thus, in most databases, searching for

“money market”

will retrieve records containing that phrase only.  Leaving the quotation marks off in most databases will retrieve every record containing the words “money” and “market,” but not necessarily next to one another.

Unfortunately, there is little uniformity in the syntax of proximity operators for anything above a simple phrase.  Below are examples for some key databases of searches for “asteroid” and “earth” within 15 words of one another

Proquest Direct  asteroid N/15 earth

Lexis-Nexis:   asteroid W/15 earth

JSTOR: “asteroid earth”~15

EbscoHost: asteroid N15 earth

Google: asteroid AROUND(15) earth

A fuller list is available on an earlier Butler Blog Page, but rather than memorizing a whole list of conventions, you may just want to ask your friendly local reference librarian what the syntax for the database you are using.

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