Skip to Main Content

Guide to Research and Writing for the Academic Study of Religion

Proximity Operators

Proximity operators are similar to Boolean operators in that they allow you to control how your keywords relate. Proximity operators allow you to make sure your keywords are close to each other. This type of search is most useful in databases in which you are doing a full-text search. A full-text search is one where documents or records are searched in their entirety rather than just the bibliographic record (author, title, subject headings etc.) that is typically searched through an index.

The most common proximity operators are WITHNEAR, and ADJ (adjacent). However, they make your search terms interact differently depending on which database you are using them in. Look for advanced search options to see how proximity operators will function in the database you are using.


JSTOR's advanced search  allows you to change the default "and" operator to  "near 5", "near 10", or  'near 25' which will require that the search terms be close together - within either 5, 10 or 25 words.  This is a very effective way to limit your search to the most relevant results in JSTOR.

E-book Central (ProQuest)  allows you to use proximity search to help focus retrieval.  For example "religious WITHIN-3 ethics" will force the term religious to be located within 3 words of the term ethics.


TIP - Always read instructions for a database. Each database has its own set of search rules. Some support Boolean searching, some do not and all have their own Boolean default. Not knowing the Boolean default or using search techniques that are not supported may retrieve limited or negative search results.