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Web of Science: Search Techniques at a glance

Search Techniques at a glance



Useful for finding prefixes and alternative endings of a word

The asterisk (*) replaces a number of characters including 0 anywhere in a word


 develop, develops, developing, development, developmental


→ archaeological,osteoarchaeology


Useful for finding alternative spellings of a word

The question mark (?) replaces a single character anywhere in a word

The dollar ($) replaces a single character including 0 anywhere in a word


→ organisation, organization


→ steel, steels


The singular form of a word finds plurals and alternative forms of the search term and spelling variations (e.g. UK and US spellings)

It doesn't work with phrases and wildcards


→ walk, walking, walked


→ color, colors, colorful

Hyphenated words

Search for hyphenated words and phrases by entering the terms with and without the hypen


→ speech-impairment, speech impairment


If you enter a phrase without quotation marks - the Web of Science search engine will retrieve records that contain all of the words you entered

The words may or may not appear close together

To search for an exact phrase - enclose the phrase in double quotation marks


- Applies only to Topic and Title searches

- Truncation symbol (*) and wildcard (?) can be used

- Wildcard ($) cannot be used inside quotation marks

- In exact phrases the singular form of a word does not retrieve the plural form

"energy conservation"

→ energy conservation

Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT

Use Boolean operators to combine your search

Without parentheses operator precedence is:

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

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

Note: In Web of Science boolean operators are not case sensitive


Use AND to combine multiple concepts


Use OR when you have similar words to describe a concept or topic


Use NOT to exclude results containing terms

At least one term must appear

→ liver OR cirrhosis

Both terms must appear

→ cognitive architecture AND robots

Exclude one term

lung NOT cancer

Nesting – (…)

Group similar words together using brackets (college OR university) AND athletics

Proximity Operators - NEAR/x, SAME

The Proximity operator finds words within a certain distance from each other

NEAR/x - the /x element says how many words between the two keywords, but not the order the words are in 

Just using NEAR will be treated as NEAR 15 

SAME - can be used in Address field only

Rabies NEAR/5 rabbits

where rabies can be found within a distance of five words of rabbits in the title or article abstract

Mineral resources SAME Beijing

→ finds records containing an author address in which the terms mineral resources and Beijing  both appear

Search Techniques Table

Printable version for download available below