How To Find Keywords Within 5 Words of Each Other

Bet you didn’t know about “proximity” searches in the Ebscohost family of databases. These commands allow you to search 2 words that occur in the text near each other.

The upshot of which is: the article is more likely to be written about your topic if your words occur close to one other.

(Ebscohost is the name of the publisher that brings you several of our databases. You may know them by their proper names, like Academic Search Complete. Once inside an Ebsco database, you can always “choose databases” to search several Ebscohost databases at once.)

Here’s the official directions from Ebscohost:

Proximity Searches

You can use a proximity search to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the databases. Proximity searching is used with a Keyword or Boolean search.

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 if they are 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 match reform of income tax.

In addition, multiple terms can be used on either side of the operator. See the following examples:

  • (baseball or football or basketball) N5 (teams or players)
  • oil W3 (disaster OR clean-up OR contamination)