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Embase at UAB Libraries: Advanced Search Tips

Wildcards or Truncation

Embase has two truncation characters: * and ?

Use the asterisk to replace one or more letters:
         sul*ur retrieves sulfur, sulphur

Use the question mark for single-letter truncation:
        catheter? retrieves catheters, but not catheterization.

You can use truncation characters within phrases:
        "heart infarct*" 
"physic* fit*"

And you can use the asterisk to truncate a phrase in combination with field limits:
         "physic* fit*":ab,ti

However, the use of ? is not supported with field limits: 
         sul?ur:ab,ti​ retrieves an error message.

The asterisk cannot be used with fewer than two characters; for best relevance, type at least three characters before truncating with *.     


Add /syn (for synonyms) to an Emtree term to search the exploded term as well as all the synonyms listed. This retrieves even more results than ticking the 'search as broadly as possible' box (available on the Quick, Advanced, Drug, Disease, Device search forms):

Combining search sets

From the Results page you can combine search sets using the set numbers with a hash mark (#). Search sets can also be nested with parentheses:

#3 OR #5

#1 AND (#3 OR #5)

Clinical Trial Number

You can use the field code :cn to search by clinical trial number, or just use the number. All these formats should work:

Clinical trial numbers have been indexed for Embase since 2007.

Boolean and Proximity Operators / Phrases

Embase supports the Boolean and proximity operators AND, OR, NOT, NEAR and NEXT. You can use them in any search form, including Quick Search.

AND – Both words or phrases must be present in the record; they do not have to be adjacent:
            depression AND tricyclic

OR – At least one word or phrase must be present; this example searches for records containing any one of these three words:
           elderly OR geriatric OR aged

NOT – The word or phrase before the 'NOT' must be present in the record; the word or phrase after the 'NOT' must be excluded:
           depression NOT tricyclic

If no other operator is specified, AND is the default operator;  heart failure is searched as heart AND failure if not enclosed in quotation marks. ​To search for a phrase, be sure to use single or double quotes around the phrase, or hyphens: "heart failure" or 'heart failure' or heart-failure.


NEAR/n – Must be within n words of each other. This example retrieves records with at most 4 words between terms, in either order:
           symptom NEAR/5 headache 

NEXT/n – Must be within n words of each other. This example retrieves records with no more than 4 words between terms, in order specified:
           symptom NEXT/5 headache

The proximity operators NEAR and NEXT can be used with parentheses, truncation and field limits:                     (symptom* NEAR/5 (headache* OR 'head ache')):ti,ab

Do not use quotation marks unless one of the concepts is a multi-word phrase:                                                     'hip NEAR/3 prosthesis' yields 0 hits, but                                                                                                  'acetylsalicylic acid' NEAR/6 ischemia is a valid search


You can combine Boolean operators and use parentheses to create complex single search statements:

         (aged OR elderly OR geriatric) AND (depression OR insomnia)

         (symptom* NEAR/5 (headache* OR ‘head ache’)):ti,ab

Limit by date

Limit by date by using the field label py (publication year) or sd (since date).

For a range:                #8 AND [1990-2016]/py

For a single year:        #8 AND 2016:py

Since specific date:     #8 AND [03/01/2015]/sd

Floating a Subheading

Subheadings can be searched alone, unattached to a specific term (free-floating), using lnk:

'graves disease'/exp AND 'drug therapy':lnk

Command Line Syntax / Field Limits

Command-line syntax is displayed on the Results page, letting you see exactly how your search was executed:

You can use command-line syntax to enter a search in full in the search box on most of the search forms (although in practice shortcuts such as limits, mapping to preferred terms, etc. are likely to be used). Command-line syntax includes the use of boolean operators, nesting, and combining sets as above. It also includes the use of field labels to qualify your terms to specific fields. Restrict to specific fields by using a colon (:) followed by the two-letter label. To search several fields at the same time, separate the field labels with commas:

'heart attack':ti,ab

You do not need quotes for single-word terms: heart:ti and 'heart':ti retrieve the same results.

Exact search in designated fields is indicated by a word or phrase followed by a slash (/) with a two-letter label. Several fields are available for exact searches; these command-line searches work from the Results page search box:

de (exact Emtree term, no explosion)                         Example: 'hyperthyroidism'/de

exp (exact Emtree term, exploded)                            Example: 'hyperthyroidism'/exp

mj (exact Emtree term, as a major focus in article)    Example: 'hyperthyroidism'/exp/mj

au (exact author name)                                               Example: 'smith j'/au 

jt (exact journal title)                                                    Example: 'american heart journal'/jt

ta (exact journal abbreviation)                                     Example: 'am heart j'/ta

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