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InfoSkills for Social and Behavioral Sciences

InfoSkills @ TiU

2.4. Phrase searching

Isn't phrase searching about putting adjacent words in quotation marks?

Yes. We've already discussed phrase searches on the Google pages of Module B. A recap: phrase searching is putting multiple-word terms ('exact phrases') in quotation marks. These words will then be searched next to each other in the exact order in which they were entered into the search box.


  • "global warming"
  • "genetic engineering"
  • "social media"
  • "hearing aids"

What happens if the quotation marks are left out?

As explained on page 2.1, the operator AND is implied in some library databases. If such a database is searched with two adjacent words it will automatically put a Boolean AND between these words, requiring that both words be present in the search results, but not necessarily adjacent to each other. 


Let’s see how this works in practice. Here's a title search for global economy in a library database.

Below are three results returned by the database. It's clear how the search has been interpreted: as a Boolean AND search; both global and economy are present in the results.

But only the second result includes the phrase global economy. The other results are not about the global economy at all: 'global' and 'economy' appear as separate title words there. A search for the phrase "global economy" would have been much more effective. 

Some databases automatically search for phrases or adjacent words. Check the database Help screens for details.