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SOCY2210 Research Methods


Database Search Tips

General Search Tips for Database Searching

The boxes below and on the right contain tips for using databases provided by ProQuest, e.g. ERIC, Sociological Abstracts, PsycINFO, Dissertations and Theses Full-Text and a number of others. Though pertaining specifically to ProQuest databases, many of the tips are also relevant for many other databases provided by different vendors. 

Advice: Whatever database you are using, it is always advisable to consult the Help screens associated with that database.



Boolean Operators


Use AND to narrow a search and retrieve records containing all of the words it separates, e.g. adolescents AND children will only find records containing both these words.




Use OR to broaden a search and retrieve records containing any of the words it separates, e.g. adolescents OR children will find records containing adolescents only, children only, or both words. 


Use NOT to narrow a search and retrieve records that do not contain the term following it, e.g. adolescents NOT children will find records that contain adolescents, but will not contain the word children.



Operator Precedence

ProQuest assumes your search terms should be combined in a certain order. If you include operators such as AND and OR, we will combine them in this order: NEAR, PREAND, OR, NOT.

For instance, a search on education AND elementary NOT secondary would be interpreted as (education AND elementary) NOT secondary. So in this case, (education AND elementary) is considered first.

This search will return results regarding education with information on elementary but not secondary education.You can also use parentheses to control the order in which your search terms get combined, instead of using the standard operator precedence.The use of parentheses and Boolean operators in combination is perfectly acceptable.

Search Tips

·        Use quotation marks (“”) to search for exact phrases.


·        Two word queries such as advertising campaigns are searched as an implicit AND.


·        Use special characters and operators to focus queries.



Truncation, Wildcard and Hyphen Characters

The asterisk (*) is the Truncation character, used to replace one or more characters. The truncation character can be used at the beginning (left-hand truncation), the end (right-hand truncation), or in the middle of a word.

Example: Searching for econom* will find economy, economics, economical, etc.
Searching for *old will find told, household, bold, etc.


The question mark symbol (?) is the Wildcard character, used to replace any single character, either inside or at the right end of the word.
The wildcard character cannot be used to begin a word.

Example: Searching for t?re will find tire, tyre, tore, etc.
Searching for ad??? will find added, adult, adopt


Use a hyphen to indicate a range when searching numerical fields, such as Publication date.

Example: YR(2005-2008)



Proximity Operators

Proximity and adjacency operators are used to broaden and narrow your search.




Finds documents where these words are within some number of words of each other (either before or after).
Note: You must specify a number or “near” will be treated as a search term, rather than an operator.

Example: computer NEAR/3 careers





Finds documents where these words are within some number of words of each other in the specified order.
Note: If you do not specify a number, a default value of 4 words will be applied.

Example: business management PRE/5 education





Used primarily for searching specific fields, like Subject, EXACT looks for your exact search term in its entirety, rather than as part of a larger term.

Example: Type EXACT(“higher education”) in the Subject field
Will retrieve: documents with the subject term "higher education"
Will not retrieve: documents with the subject terms of “higher education administration”, “women in higher education”, etc.