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Advanced Research: Advanced Database Searching

This guide is for MSJC students and advanced researchers and features topics such as strategic browsing, finding data and using research tips to make your research process better, faster and smarter.

Advanced Database Searching

Type Of     Search Purpose When to Use What It Looks Like
Boolean Specifies multiple words in any field in any order You may want to use Boolean search when you are doing any keyword searches.  You may not need Boolean search if your keywords are new or unique.

american AND economics

(this will narrow the search so that articles will have both terms)

Truncation Truncation instructs the database to find words that begin with the letters you entered and does not pay attention to how they end. You can use truncation when you have keyword(s) that may have similar forms which can return information that is related to you topic.

Truncation symbols can very by database but are often an asterisk *

Ebsco: americ*

these searches could return america, american, americanized. 


Proximity operators will allow you to locate one word that is a certain distance from another


You can use proximity operators when you are searching for keywords which should appear close thogether.

Proximity operators may vary depending on which database you are using


You can use a proximity search to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the databases. Proximity searching is used with a Keyword or Boolean search.

The proximity operators are composed of a letter (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 america N5 economics to find results that would match american economics.

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.


NEAR/n or N/n

Look for documents that contain two search terms, in any order, within a specified number of words apart.  Replace ‘n’ with a number. In the example, 3 means within 3 words. 

Used alone, NEAR defaults to NEAR/4.
Important to know: When you shorten NEAR to N, you must provide a number. For example, internet N/3 media. If you search on internet N media, ProQuest interprets N as a search term, rather than as a proximity operator.

Limiting/Narrowing Most databases will allow you to limit your searches.  This is helpful in reducing resources in your results list that are not helpful to your research. Most of the time you will want to put some limit your search to save time instead of looking at too many resources.

Limiting options may appear in different places in each database.  Look for checkboxes and drop-down menus when you begin you search.

Limits can be made by:

  • Scholarly (peer reviewed) resources
  • Date
  • Language
  • Subject