Search Tips

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

Operator precedence

Subject searching


Your search terms can include any letters or numbers.

ProQuest ignores punctuation characters — such as periods, commas, and colons — in your search terms.

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.

How ProQuest interprets your search

You can search by entering words into a search box without specifying search fields. When you do:

Operators, fields, and special characters

Note: You can enter operators in either lowercase or uppercase - OR will work the same as or.

Operator Description Example
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

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


Brings back results with the letters in parenthesis in capital letters

Important to know: Ensure that there is no space between the ALLCAPS command and the open parens. ie. ALLCAPS(idea) 

ALLCAPS(epa) brings back results with the three liters EPA in all caps.

Order of Operands

The query builder works from left to right so any Boolean connectors and other operators are read in that order.

To create a query nesting ORs and ANDs (etc) to your specifications, use

Subject searching with thesauri

With a thesaurus open, you can:

See Thesaurus to learn more.