Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Web of Science: Basic Search

A guide to using the Web of Science database.

Basic Search

Image showing Web of Science's basic search box.

Click image to enlarge

Basic Search is the default search page in most WoS databases. Select which database collection you would like to search in. Search by keyword in fields such as topic, title, author, publication name, publication year, and funding agency. Search fields vary based on which database collection is being searched. You can also add more rows of search terms, or add a date range to search within. Use Boolean operators, proximity operators, and truncation/wildcards to narrow your search. WoS searches the bibliographic metadata, not the full text of articles.

Search Tips

  • Choose specific terms that are closely related to your research topic, including terms you might use when discussing your topic with a colleague such as jargon, synonyms, and abbreviations. Keep in mind that WoS automatically finds variant spellings and forms of a word.
  • Use Boolean operators to limit, broaden, or eliminate terms from your search: 
    • AND limits search results, finding articles with both terms
    • OR broadens results, finding articles with either term
    • NOT eliminates terms from the results, finding articles with one term but not the other
  • Use proximity operators to limit your results to records that have designated search terms within a specified number of words of each other:
    • NEAR/# finds records where the search terms are within # number of words of each other. NEAR without /# defaults to a 15 word maximum
    • SAME is only used in Address searches, and restricts search results to terms that are located within the same address in a record.
  • Use truncation and wildcards to broaden your search: 
    • Add an asterisk (*) to replace multiple characters in a word (eg. biol* returns biology, biologist)
    • Add a question mark (?) to replace a single character (e.g. disrupt?rs for disrupters and disruptors)
    • Add a dollar sign ($) to replace one or zero characters (eg. odo$r for odor and odour)
  • Use quotation marks around words to search for an exact phrase.
  • Search for hyphenated phrases both with and without the hyphen to help find records that might contain both versions of the term.
  • Watch the tutorial below for more information on WoS basic search: