HeinOnline's Tip of the Week: How to Use Proximity Searching

Do you often have a group of key terms that you want to search for but your terms don't necessarily form an exact phrase? Or, when you search for the terms as a phrase you get no results? If this sounds like the kind of search terms you have, you may want to try conducting a proximity search.

A proximity search allows you to find words that are within a specific distance away from each other. Proximity searching in HeinOnline is supported with the use of a tilde symbol, "~". When you build a proximity search, you must insert the terms in quotations, close the query with the tilde, ~, and specify the distance. Proximity searching can only be used in the Advanced and/or Quick Search options. Let's take a look at a few examples.

1. We want to find articles in the Law Journal Library that are relevant to "mediation in water conflict". When searching for the phrase "mediation in water conflict", our search returns no results. Therefore, we want to adjust our search to look for the key terms within 15 words of each other. Open the Advanced Search option from within the Law Journal Library. Enter the following syntax into the search box:

text:"mediation water conflict"~15

Highlight "All Titles", leave the date range blank, and leave all section types checked as the default. This syntax will look for the three terms, mediation, water and conflict all within 15 words of each other.

Our search returns 10 results. When you click on view matching text pages, the links to the text pages are sorted based on relevancy, thus in our first result, we see these three terms appear.

2. Let's try this example: Search for the terms proportionality and balancing within 5 words of each other. Enter the following syntax into the box (leave the remaining variables including titles, date, and section types checked as the defaults):

text:"proportionality balancing"~5

This search returns just over 300 results.

3. Now you try it! Search for power, balance, and mediation within 10 words of each other in only articles, cases and legislation from 2002-2008 in the Law Journal Library.

Remember, proximity searching requires the search terms to be grouped within quotation marks. Also, it's important to identify the field you wish to search across. In our examples above, we've been using the "text" field. You can also use proximity searches in the article title field in the Law Journal Library, for example you could input title:"environmental energy"~5.

So, how many results did you get for power, balance and mediation?

In the above example, the syntax would be:

text:"power balance mediation"~10

We would have selected All Titles, insert 2002 to 2008 into the date range fields, and unchecked all section types except Articles, Cases and Legislation. This would return 20 results.

Stay tuned for next week's Tip of the Week in which we'll focus on Wildcard Searching. Wildcard searching allows you to search for various formations of a word, such as interlock, interlocks, or interlocking.

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