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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Database Quick Guides

Basic information on writing search queries in library databases. Intended audience: advanced searchers, or searchers interested in learning more about advanced searching options.

The Basics


Asterisk: *

child* retrieves child, children, childbirth, childbearing, childish.

Wildcard (single character) Question mark: ?

wom?n retrieves woman, women, womyn.


Put phrases in quotation marks.

Default: AND operators between three or more words.

"james earl ray" retrieves documents in which the words james and earl and ray appear next to each other, in that exact order.

james earl ray (without quotation marks) retrieves documents that contain all 3 words, james and earl and ray, regardless of where the words appear in the document, or in what order.

Boolean operators AND

lincoln AND douglas retrieves only documents that contain both lincoln and douglas.

lincoln OR douglas retrieves documents that contain either lincoln or douglas.

Proximity operators

PRE/n terms must appear within n words in the specified order.

NEAR/n terms must appear within n words of one another, in any order.

NOT W/n both terms must appear in the document, but not within n number of words of each other.

henry PRE/1 thoreau retrieves documents that contain the phrases henry david thoreau or henry thoreau.

race NEAR/3 riot retrieves documents that contain the phrases race riot; race and riot in wartime LA; race, gender and riot; riot of 1921: race, reparations, and reconciliation; but also riot and the arms race

ProQuest Congressional

In ProQuest Congressional, you can use an ALLCAPS operator to search for character strings formed entirely of capitalized letters. This operator is useful when searching for agencies (e.g. "EPA") or any other initialism or acronym (e.g. "DACA").

Example query: