Phrase searching

Phrase searching

Phrase searching means searching a database for words in a precise order. There is only one common database, CAB Abstracts, which assumes that two words next to each other should be searched as a phrase automatically. All the other databases will put a boolean operator AND between two words.

fishSo, by the general rules, the way to search for terms next to each other is to enclose them in quotation marks:

“global warming”, “coastal marine fish”

A phrase searching is very useful but also a restricting search tool. It helps to screen out the cases, where the words occurring together is essential to the meaning of a search term. A good example is “forest management”: ‘a branch of forestry concerned with overall administrative, economic, legal, and social aspects, as well as scientific and technical aspects, such as silviculture, protection, and forest regulation’ (definition from Wikipedia).

Interactions between windthrow, bark beetles and forest management in the Tatra national parks

The meaning of the phrase is lost, if the words don’t appear together:
Divergent trends in ecosystem services under different climate-management futures in a fire-prone forest landscape

Watch a video about phrase searching by Conestoga College Library (1:15). Link in the picture will take you to YouTube:

treesStill, it’s good to be aware, that using a phrase search might leave something useful out from the result. There might be some extra terms in the middle of the “basic” phrase or the phrase can be written with of-expression, for instance.




Participatory and multi-criteria analysis for forest ecosystem management: A case study of Pohorje, Slovenia

Balancing Ecosystem Services and Disservices: Smallholder Farmers’ Use and Management of Forest and Trees in an Agricultural Landscape in Southwestern Ethiopia

Fish photo by Carrie Manning.