Search Techniques


Key Tips and Internet Search techniques help you to find the most effective souces in internet Search. 

  • Boolean Search
  • Truncation Search
  • Wildcard Search
  • Domain Search
  • Exact Search
  • Define search
  • Limited Search and so on. 

Boolean Operators

Use to: combine your search words and include synonyms

Also known as Boolean operators, search operators allow you to include multiple words and concepts in your searches. The shaded areas on the diagrams below indicate the records retrieved using each operator.


  • AND retrieves records containing both words.
  • In this example the shaded area contains records with both women and africa in the text.
  • It narrows your search.
  • Some databases automatically connect keywords with and.


  • OR retrieves records containing either word.
  • In this example the shaded area contains records with women, or gender, or both words in the text.
  • It broadens your search.
  • You can use this to include synonyms in your search.


  • NOT retrieves your first word but excludes the second.
  • In this example the shaded area indicates that only records containing just Africa will be retrieved (not those with both Africa and Asia)
  • Beware! By using this operator you might exclude relevant results because you will lose those records which include both words.



Truncation and Wild Card Search

Use to: widen your search and ensure that you don't miss relevant records

Most databases are not intelligent - they just search for exactly what you type in. Truncation and wild card symbols enable you to overcome this limitation. These symbols can be substituted for letters to retrieve variant spellings and word endings.


  • a wild card symbol replaces a single letter - useful to retrieve alternative spellings and simple plurals
    eg wom?n will find woman or women


  • a truncation symbol retrieves any number of letters - useful to find different word endings based on the root of a word
    eg Librar* will find Library, Librarian, Librarians, Libraries
    eg Bank* will find Bank, Banks, Banking, Bankers


Phrase Search

A type of search that allows users to search for documents containing an exact sentence or phrase, rather than single keywords.


Search Tips in Databases


Scopus: Scopus covers over 18,000 titles, which include mostly peer-reviewed journals,books series, and conference proceedings that feature scientific, medical, technical and social science topics. Scopus does not use a controlled vocabulary, like MeSH to search. This database also contains over 23 million patent records and Scrius a scientific web page search. Scopus provides users the option to access article reference citations and to perform cited reference searching.  (Tutorials)


Engineeringvillage2: This Pocket Guide provides a brief summary of Engineering Village2 contents and search options that you are likely to use most often. It is Not meant to be a comprehensive source of information.


Engineering Village offers four ways to search its databases:

    • Quick Search - designed for quick, basic searching
    • Expert Search - provides more power and flexibility; incorporates advanced Boolean logic and includes more search options than Quick Search
    • Thesaurus Search - allows searching of terms indexed for each database so you can identify controlled vocabulary terms, identify synonyms and related terms, and improve your search strategy with suggested and narrower terms
    • eBook Search - provides access to Referex books

The Engineering Village interface is not case sensitive; text can be entered in upper or lower case.


Use truncation (*) to search for words that begin with the same letters.

comput* returns computer, computers, computerize, computerization

Truncation can also be used to replace any number of characters internally.

sul*ate returns sulphate or sulfate

Use wildcard (?) to replace a single character.

wom?n retrieves woman or women

Terms are automatically stemmed, except in the author field, unless the "Autostemming off" feature is checked.

management returns manage, managed, manager, managers, managing, management

To search for an exact phrase or phrases containing stop words (and, or, not, near), enclose terms in braces or quotation marks.

{Journal of Microwave Power and Electromagnetic Energy} 
"near field scanning"

Use NEAR or ONEAR to search for terms in proximity. ONEAR specifies the exact order of terms. NEAR and ONEAR cannot be used with truncation, wildcards, parenthesis, braces or quotation marks. NEAR and ONEAR can be used with stemming.

Avalanche ONEAR/0 diodes
Solar NEAR energy

Browse the author look-up index to select all variations of an author's name Smith, A. OR

Smith, A.J. OR Smith, Alan J.



Web of Science: Search operators AND, OR, NOT, NEAR, and SAME may be used to combine terms in order to broaden or narrow retrieval. Keep in mind that case does not matter when using search operators. For example,OR, Or, and or returns the same results. We use all uppercase in our examples as a matter of style.


This Help page includes information about the following topics.


Boolean Operators


Use AND to find records containing all terms separated by the operator.


Use OR to find records containing any of the terms separated by the operator.


Use NOT to exclude records containing certain words from your search.

Booleans in Source Titles

Searching for journal titles that contain the OR Boolean is acceptable with Show Suggestions turned ON or OFF.

Booleans in Organization Names

When searching for organization names that contain a Boolean (AND, NOT, NEAR, and SAME), always enclose the word in quotation marks ( " " ). For example:

  • (Japan Science "and" Technology Agency (JST))
  • ("Near" East Univ)
  • ("OR" Hlth Sci Univ)

You can also enclose the entire query in quotation marks. For example:

  • "Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)"
  • "Near" East Univ"
  • "OR Hlth Sci Univ"


Proximity Operators


Use NEAR/x to find records where the terms joined by the operator are within a specified number of words of each other. This is true even when the words are across different fields.

Replace the x with a number to specify the maximum number of words that separate the terms.

If you use NEAR without /x, the system will find records where the terms joined by NEAR are within 15 words of each other. For example, these searches are equivalent:

  • salmon NEAR virus
  • salmon NEAR/15 virus

Be aware that ...

You cannot use the AND operator in Topic and Title queries as a component of the NEAR operator. For example, the following query is valid.

TS=(Brown NEAR "spider bite")

However, TS=(Brown NEAR spider bite) is not valid because AND is used as an implied operator between the terms spider and bite.

On the other hand, OG=(Brown NEAR Rhode Island) is valid because this field tag calls for an implied NEAR operator between the terms Rhode and Island.

When the Word NEAR Appears in a Title

Always enclose the word NEAR in quotation marks ( " " ) when the word appears in the title of a source item such as a journal, book, proceeding, or other type of work. For example, the following is a valid query.

Atomistic simulations of a solid/liquid interface: a combined force field and first principles approach to the structure and dynamics of acetonitrile"near" an anatase

If you leave out the quotation marks, the system returns an error message that states: "Search Error: Invalid use of NEAR operator"


In Address searches, use SAME to restrict your search to terms that appear in the same address within a Full Record. Use parentheses to group your address terms. For example:

AD=(McGill Univ SAME Quebec SAME Canada) finds records in which McGill University appears in the Addresses field of a Full Record along with Quebec and Canada.

AD=(Portland SAME Oregon) finds records in which Portland, Oregon, or OR (state abbreviation) appear in the Addresses field of a record.

Be aware that SAME works exactly like AND when used in other fields (such as Topic and Title fields) and when the terms appear in the same record. For example:

TS=(cat SAME mouse) retrieves the same results as TS=(cat AND mouse).


Search Operator Precedence

If you use different operators in your search, the search is processed according to this order of precedence:

  1. NEAR/x
  2. SAME
  3. NOT
  4. AND
  5. OR

copper OR lead AND algae finds all records in which both lead AND algae are present as well as all records in which the word copper is present.

(copper OR lead) AND algae finds all records in which the word algae is present together with either copper or lead.


Use of Parentheses

Use parentheses to override operator precedence. The expression inside the parentheses is executed first.

(cadmium AND gill*) NOT Pisces finds records containing both cadmium and gill (or gills), but excludes records containing the word Pisces.

(salmon OR pike) NEAR/10 virus find records containing salmon or pike within 10 words of virus.