Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Jun 05, 2023     Views: 1549

Proximity Searching:

  • Proximity searching is used to narrow searches by finding words that are next to, near, or within a specified distance from each other. This is useful when you are looking for concepts that might be expressed by multiple different phrases.

For example, if you did a regular phrase search for “curriculum theories,” you would not retrieve documents mentioning theories of curriculum, theories involving curriculum, theories about curriculum, or other similar phrases. But, if you were to do a proximity search, and look for the term curriculum appearing within a number of certain words (or less) of the term theories, you would be able to retrieve many phrases formed with those words.


Proximity Operators:

  • Proximity searches use operators to designate how closely, and in what order, you want the search terms to appear. Typically the proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) or word (NEAR) and a number (to specify the number of words appearing between your search terms). 
  • Proximity operators are often used when Boolean operator searches are not narrowing down a search enough.

For example, when a search for Chicago AND blues results in too many articles that weren’t really about blues music in Chicago; they just mentioned both words somewhere in full text. Using proximity operators will narrow down the search further and increase the likelihood that blues and Chicago are linked.


Important Note:

  • Different databases use different proximity operators.
  • Not all of our library databases support proximity searching, or, if they do, they may require you to format your search differently. 
  • Check the help menu of the database you're searching to find out what proximity operator it uses.   


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