Thursday, February 16, 2006

Library Databases: The Near Operator

While searching our Databases on the Library Web, everyone knows to use AND, OR, or NOT as operators to customize your search. However, another rarely used operator can be very helpful as well.

By using Nn or (NEARn for Newsbank) in between your search terms, you can indicate how near you want the words to appear in the article. Words that are close to each other are more likely to be related than words that are far apart.

For example, in InfoTrac Onefile, a search for COMPUTERS AND LIBRARY produces 1649 results. A search for COMPUTERS N3 LIBRARY produces only 150 results. This search retrieves articles where the word COMPUTERS is mentioned within three words of LIBRARY. These 150 articles are not only far fewer than 1649, but they are probably more relevant.

In Newsbank, use NEARn to perform the same search. For example, if a customer is searching for an obituary, a search for BOB SMITH will pull up every Bob Eucker and Will Smith in the newspaper. If you add quotation marks and search for “BOB SMITH”, you lose articles that include the middle initial, which many obituaries do. A search for BOB NEAR3 SMITH will make the customer’s job much easier.

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