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Getting the Most Out of Web of Science: Phrase Searching

Phrase Searching with Quotation Marks

You have probably noticed when searching in databases or using Google, that when you enter a phrase - such as invasive species - some of your results contain both words, but not as a phrase.

To make sure your terms are searched as a phrase, you need to use quotation marks.

  • When you surround your search terms with quotation marks, you are telling the database that the words must appear as a phrase.
  • Let's take a closer look.

In Web of Science the following searches break down like this:

invasive species = 26,323 results
"invasive species" = 11,326 results

  • Searching for the terms with no quotation marks gives us results that contain both terms but they may be in different sentences. 

For example, the first article that is found for the search with no quoatation marks is about analysis of two species using field research technique that is less invasive than others.

  • We get fewer results with "invasive species" because all the results contain the exact phrase.

Proximity Searching with SAME

In Web of Science, you can achieve similar results by using SAME in your search.  SAME is handled like a Boolean Operator and will return results with the linked terms in the same sentence.

The benefit of using SAME in this manner, is that you will get articles that are more relevant than if you searched the terms as-is, but it is not as restrictive as phrase searching.

Using the example to the left, searching invasive SAME species yields 7,867 results - more than "invasive species" but fewer than invasive species

Further, using this technique would give results that contain a phrase like, " invasive potential of a species" which would not have been found witn "invasive species".