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How are phrases searched?

When your search string includes phrases, the default search order is that phrases are searched in the order in which they are typed in and with the words right next to each other. It is recommended that phrases be enclosed in quotations marks when included in searches.

In EBSCO interfaces that include Search Modes, the Boolean/Phrase search mode is customizable by your institution's administrator. The default proximity setting for the Boolean/Phrase search mode is N5 (near 5). If you want to search for an exact phrase when proximity is set to N5, quotation marks are necessary.

Using Stop Words

EBSCO treats certain words as "stop words"––for example, been, however, or so. Stop words are always ignored, even if they are enclosed in quotation marks.

Stop words are commonly used words such as articles, pronouns and prepositions. Stop words are not added to the search dictionary, since their relevance is minimal, but they are counted as words for proximity (the distance between words). Ignoring stop words allows the search engine to retrieve a more precise Result List, especially for a natural language (relevancy ranked) search.

The search engine ignores stop words (such as the, for, of and after), finding any single word in its place. For example, if you entered company of America, the search engine would find company of America, company in America, or company for America. It would not find company of the America, because the search engine retains a word distance.

The stop word or will be replaced with any word. For example if you searched for sink "or" swim, the results could include sink don't swim.

If you enter two stop words, the search engine will find any two words in the place of the stop words. For example, if you searched for company of the America, the search engine finds any two words in the place of the stop words.

EBSCO has a primary list of stop words. Additionally, several databases have their own list of stop words. All of these lists were created based upon The Library of Congress' suggestions on stop words, as well as our own statistical analysis.

Using Quotation Marks

When a user encloses search terms with double quotation marks (i.e. "global warming") the search engine looks for words in the exact order in any field in the metadata and full text (when applicable). As long as the search engine finds just one instance of the words in exact order, the record is included in the result list. It should be noted that some databases have hidden metadata fields that the search engine utilizes, thus the exact phrase is not always displayed in the record. 

If a phrase contains stop words the stop words will not be searched, but the searchable words will be searched in the order as entered. 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.

If one of the words in your search term is also a searchable field code, that word will be treated as a searchable field code unless your phrase is surrounded by quotation marks.

If the search mode is set to Find all of my search terms, your words will be searched individually, as if the word "and" were included between each word in your search. However, if the Find all of my search terms search mode is set to “On” and your phrase is enclosed in quotation marks, your keywords will still be searched as a phrase.

Using Punctuation

If you enter phrases with punctuation, the search engine searches for the term both with and without the punctuation. For example, if you enter television: talk show, the search engine finds results with television talk-show, television talk show, and if synonyms have been activated, TV talk show.

If you enter hyphenated words in a search, the search engine automatically searches for the word in both hyphenated and non-hyphenated forms. For example, entering coca-cola will find both Coca Cola and Coca-Cola.

If you are 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. The question mark symbol is treated as a wildcard when searching the EBSCOhost databases.