Proximity operators WITHIN (W) or NEAR (N) are used to narrow searches by finding words that are next to, near, or within a specified distance from each other, and are often used when Boolean operator searches are not narrowing down a search enough.
For example, when a search for "economic recovery" and stimulus results in too many articles that weren’t really about how aspects of a stimulus plan fueled economic recovery; the articles just mentioned both words somewhere in full text. Using proximity operators will narrow down the search further and increase the likelihood that the phrase economic recovery and stimulus are linked or discussed in relation to one another.
Proximity operators vary depending on the database. The database will provide this information, which is often found on a help page. The differences between proximity operators in EBSCO and ProQuest databases can be seen here:
In the example, searching "economic recovery" N/10 stimulus will find the two search terms within 10 words of each other and in no specific order.
In the example, searching "economic recovery" w10 stimulus will find the two search terms within 10 words of each other in that specific order.
The design of this page was partly adapted from Research: By Course, Subject, or Topic, by University of Arizona Libraries, © 2020 The Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of The University of Arizona, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.