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Proximity operators used in Search

Proximity operators vary from engine to engine, but they all function following the same principle. They allow you to specify how close you want two keywords or phrases to occur to each other in the documents being searched.
AltaVista uses NEAR (~), which guarantees that words or phrases will be within ten words of each other.
Go Network uses square brackets []. Placing words in square brackets will return a document that contains both words if they are found within 100 words of each other.
Proximity operators also allow you to control the specific order of two words; should adult appear before (to the left of) education, or after it (to the right of)? Again, each engine has its own implementation for this functionality. Reading your search engine's help page will explain exactly how it implements word-order operators.
Proximity searching allows you greater flexibility than phrase searching and higher accuracy rates than required-term searching.

Proximity is the search technique used to find two words next to, near, or within a specified distance of each other within a document. Using such search operators may result in more satisfactory results that are more relevant to the research needs than by just typing in desired keywords.
Some commands also control the terms order of appearance. Desired words can be in any order, a specific order, or within a certain range of each other. The following examples demonstrate the differences for a select few of the databases offered by Alliant that have proximity functions. Please check the Help link available on all of the databases for additional hints not covered by this search guide. Please note: capitalization is not important in any of these searches.
[Note: Two words are treated as a fixed phrase, unless w is used between them.] Any order of 3 or more terms: words in phrases longer than 2 words are searched in any order and anywhere within the field specified. If they must be within a particular range of each other, surround the phrase with double quotation marks , or use the w command as follows:
  1. w/# (# being any number from 1-25) between three or more words forces them to be within a specified number (#) of words of each other.
    Find documents where these words are within some number of words apart (either before or after). Use when searching for keywords within "Citation and Document Text" or "Document Text." Example: computer W/3 careers
  2. not w/# forces the words to be a minimum of x words apart. Find documents where these words appear but are not within some number of words apart (either before or after). Use when searching for keywords within "Citation and Document Text" or "Document Text."
    Example: computer NOT W/2 careers
  3. pre/# forces the words to be within a x number of each other, with the first term always first in the phrase order Find documents where the first word appears some number of words before the second word.
    Use when searching for keywords within "Citation and Document Text" or "Document Text."