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RTH 740: Evidence-Based Practice in Recreational Therapy: Advanced Search Tips

Advanced Search Tips

**These tips can be found in the "Help" section of the EBSCOhost database collection.

Boolean Operators


combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms.

e.g. education and technology finds articles that contain both terms.


combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms.

e.g.  education or technology finds results that contain either term.


excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it.

e.g.  education not technology finds results that contain the term education but not the term technology.


Use Parentheses to control a search query. Without parentheses, a search is executed from left to right. Words that you enclose in parentheses are searched first. Parentheses allow you to control and define the way the search will be executed. The left phrase in parentheses is searched first; then, based upon those results, the second phrase in parentheses is searched.

Without parentheses: dog or cat and show or parade

With parentheses: (dog or cat) and (show or parade)

In the first example, the search will retrieve everything on dog or cat shows as well as everything on parades, whether or not the articles refer to dogs or cats.

In the second example, parentheses control our query to only find articles about shows or parades that reference dogs or cats.


The wildcard is represented by a question mark ? or a pound sign #.

To use the ? wildcard, enter your search terms and replace each unknown character with a ?. EBSCOhost finds all citations of that word with the ? replaced by a letter. 

For example, type ne?t to find all citations containing neatnest or next. EBSCOhost does not findnet because the wildcard replaces a single character.  

Note: When searching for a title that ends in a question mark, the symbol should be removed from the search in order to ensure results will be returned.

To use the # wildcard, enter your search terms, adding the # in places where an alternate spelling may contain an extra character. EBSCOhost finds all citations of the word that appear with or without the extra character.

For example, type colo#r to find all citations containing color or colour.


Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. EBSCOhost finds all forms of that word.

For example, type comput* to find the words computer or computing.

Note: The Truncation symbol (*) may also be used between words to match any word.

For example, a midsummer * dream will return results that contain the exact phrase, a midsummer night's dream.


You can use a proximity search to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words of each other in the databases.

The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number (to specify the number of words). The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched, as follows:

Near Operator (N) - N5 finds the words within five words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.

For example, type tax N5 reform to find results that would match tax reform as well as reform of income tax.

Within Operator (W) - In the following example, W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order in which you entered them.

For example, type tax W8 reform to find results that would match tax reform but would not matchreform of income tax.


Phrase searching is used to search for words as phrases. That is, the words must be side by side and in the order given

e.g. "animal rights"

EBSCOhost Search Tip: Typically, when a phrase is enclosed by double quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. This is not true of phrases containing stop words. A stop word will never be searched for in an EBSCOhost database, even if it is enclosed in double quotation marks. A search query with stop words only (i.e. no other terms) yields no results.