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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 research tips to make your research process more efficient.

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 vary by database, but an asterisk * is a common wildcard character. Question marks? are also sometimes used.

Ebsco: americ*

these searches could return america, american, americanized, etc.


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 together.

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.

Limiting/Narrowing Most databases will allow you to limit or refine your searches in some way. This is helpful in reducing resources in your results list that are not helpful to your research. Most of the time it will be helpful to add some limits on your search to save time instead of looking at too many results.

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

Limits can often be made by:

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