Literature Online is a full text collection of over 350,000 works of poetry, drama, and prose written in the English language from the 8th century to the present with complementary criticism and reference resources. Included within Literature Online is the Annual Bibliography of English Language & Literature (ABELL). ABELL indexes articles, essays, books, dissertations, and book reviews on language and literature topics. It also includes the full text of articles from over 100 journals. ABELL indexes sources back to 1920, and provides the full-text of recent journal articles.
|Search syntax and field codes > Search Tips|
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Successful searching is largely about being precise.
The tips, techniques, and information here can help you search with precision and find what you need.
How ProQuest interprets your search
Operators, fields, and special characters
Your search terms can include any letters or numbers. Because ProQuest search supports the UTF-8 character set, managed by the Unicode Consortium, you can enter your terms in English, or any other language, such as French, Spanish, Greek, Cyrillic, etc. Whether your search retrieves any documents will depend on matching content or indexing being available in ProQuest. For example, the Russian word быть (meaning 'to be' in English), retrieves just a few documents from some ProQuest databases. However, if быть displays in its transliterated English form of byt' in some databases, your search for быть will not find those results. Search for быть OR byt' to find all relevant results.
ProQuest ignores punctuation characters — such as periods, commas, and colons — in your search terms.
To search for chemical formulas or other strings that contain sub or super-scripted characters, enter all the characters in the correct order. For example, a search for CH3CH2OH will correctly retrieve occurrences of the chemical formula for ethanol, as CH3CH2OH.
Stop words: When processing your search, some search engines ignore very common words you may have included, so-called 'stop words' — like articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (from, with, of). These engines will only search for those words if you somehow flag or mark them in your search, often by enclosing them in parentheses or sometimes with brackets. ProQuest does not recognize any list of 'stop words.' For example, if you search for 'cat in the hat,' ProQuest will search for ‘cat AND in AND the AND hat.’ The default relevance sorting of your results will bring documents that contain all of your search terms — mostly as 'cat in the hat' — to the top of your results list.
Diacritical marks: Indexing and content terms carrying diacritical marks, like umlauts (Ä) or accents, can inconsistently carry the mark, or not. Because of that inconsistency, ProQuest ignores these marks. For example, a search for the word før (Danish for 'before') will not only retrieve for, but will also retrieve all records containing för, fór, and fòr. A search for any of these terms will retrieve the same results.
Some special characters are always going to be interpreted in the context of specific kinds of searching:
Read more about special characters below.
You can search by entering words into a search box without specifying search fields. When you do:
Note: You can enter operators in either lowercase or uppercase - OR will work the same as or.
|AND||Look for documents that contain all of your words or phrases.
Use AND to narrow your search and get fewer results.
|food AND nutrition|
|OR||Look for documents that contain any of your words or phrases.
Use OR to broaden your search and get more results.
|food OR nutrition|
|NOT||Look for documents that contain one of your search terms, but not the other.||nursing NOT shortage|
|NEAR/n or N/n||
Look for documents that contain two search terms, in any order, within a specified number of words apart. Replace ‘n’ with a number. In the example, 3 means within 3 words.
Used alone, NEAR defaults to NEAR/4.
|nursing NEAR/3 education
media N/3 women
|PRE/n or P/n or -||
Look for documents that contain one search term that appears within a specified number of words before a second term.
Replace ‘n’ with a number. In the example, 4 means the first term precedes the second term by 4 or fewer words.
A hyphen (-) joining two terms within a search is equivalent to PRE/0 or P/0.
|nursing PRE/4 education
shares P/4 technologies
|EXACT or X||
Look for your exact search term in its entirety. Used primarily for searching specific fields, like Subject. For instance, a search on su.exact("higher education"), will return documents with a subject term of "higher education", but not documents with a subject term of "higher education funding".
Important to know: EXACT is not included in the 'operator precedence' list shown above. Unlike the operators listed there—like AND or PRE—EXACT is neither a Boolean or a Proximity operator. EXACT simply allows you to specify with precision occurrences of an 'exact' term, without returning occurrences of multiple-word terms that include your search terms.
Important to know: When you apply the EXACT operator to a search term, you cannot also apply the truncation (*) or wild card (?) characters to the same search term. Use of the EXACT operator implies the desire for exact precision. Both the truncation and wildcard characters undercut that precision by broadening your search.
Link a descriptor term to a Subheading (qualifier) by selecting the proper qualifier in the Thesaurus window, or by using the LNK (or --) in Basic, Advanced or Command Line Search.
Also, link two related data elements together, to ensure proper specificity in your search.
Important to know: LNK is not included in the 'operator precedence' list shown above. Unlike the operators listed there—like AND or PRE—LNK is neither a Boolean or a Proximity operator. LNK enables you to specify precise relationships between qualifiers and terms in your search query.
MESH(descriptor LNK qualifier)
MESH("aspirin" LNK "adverse effects")
MESH("aspirin -- adverse effects")
ProQuest follows a default order when interpreting a search that uses operators to combine search terms. If your search includes operators such as AND or OR, ProQuest combines them in the order indicated below:
For example, the search:
education AND elementary NOT secondary
is interpreted in this order:
(education AND elementary) NOT secondary
Since education AND elementary is interpreted first, the search will return results on education that discuss elementary education, but not secondary education.
Note: For more controlled searching, use parentheses to override ProQuest's default operator precedence.
Every document in every ProQuest database is indexed to capture individual bits of information about the document. You can use indexed search fields to create very precise searches.
For example, AU(smith) will retrieve only documents where smith appears in the author field. Similarly, AU(smith) and TI(food) will retrieve only documents with food in the title and smith as the author.
Separate codes with commas to search multiple fields at once.
For more information, see frequently used search fields.
For more targeted searching, use multiple field codes with one search query.
You can use wildcards and truncation when you're looking for documents that contain spelling variants, or words that begin with the same character string.
Wildcard character - used to replace any single character, either inside or at the right end of a word. Multiple wildcards can be used to represent multiple characters.
Important to know: A single ? wildcard characer will match both zero and one character... meaning cat? will return matches on both cat and cats. Similarly, cat?? will return matches on cat, cats, and catch—0, 1, or 2 characters in that example.
Finds: nurse, nurses, and nursed.
Finds: smith and smyth
Finds: ad, ads, adds, added, adult, adopt
Truncation character (*) - retrieves variations of the search term. Use the truncation character at the end (right-hand truncation) or in the middle of search terms. Each truncated word can return up to 500 word variations.
Standard truncation (*) retrieves variations on the search term, replacing up to 5 characters.
Defined truncation ([*n]) replaces up to the number of characters specified, for example [*9]. The maximum number of characters that can be entered is 20.
|Important to know: You cannot enter a wildcard (?) or truncation (*) character at the left-hand/leading position of a search term. For example, *old or ?tion would both be invalid searches. You also cannot search with a single wildcard (?) or single truncation (*) character. Both are invalid searches.|
|Important to know: Any terms retrieved using either truncation (*) or wildcard (?) characters are not considered when sorting your results based on relevance. That's because there is no way for ProQuest to assess the relevance of these terms to your research. For example, your search for 'bio*' could return occurrences of any or all of these terms: 'bionic' or 'biosynthesis' or 'biodegrade' or 'biographic.' One, some, all, or none could be relevant to your research.|
|[*n]||[*n] is used to denote up to how many characters you want to truncate.||
|<||Less than. Used for numeric fields like publication year.||YR(<2005)|
|>||Greater than. Used for numeric fields like publication year.||YR(>2005)|
|<=||Less than or equal to. Used for numeric fields like publication year.||YR(<=2005)|
|>=||Greater than or equal to. Used for numeric fields like publication year.||YR(>=2005)|
|-||Use a hyphen to indicate a range when searching numerical fields, such as Publication date.||YR(2005-2008)|
Qualifiers help you focus your search on specific aspects of a subject. For example, use the "adverse effects" qualifier with a drug name to find documents about adverse effects of that drug.
You can search with qualifiers by using either of the following syntaxes:
MESH(aspirin LNK "adverse effects")
MESH(aspirin -- "adverse effects")
You can also use abbreviations for qualifiers in MEDLINE.
For example, in MEDLINE, use the abbreviation ae in place of adverse effects:
MESH(acetaminophen -- ae)
MeSH (MEDLINE) provides the ability to view qualifiers associated with subject terms, then select them for use.
With a thesaurus open, you can:
See Thesaurus to learn more.
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