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Boolean, proximity and truncation searching

To narrow the scope of your search you can use the following special sets of predefined words, called operators, to join together your search terms:

Boolean operators

EEBO allows you to combine your search terms so you can target your search at more specific areas. For example, from the Basic Search page you can list the works in EEBO which contain the words romantic and love.

You combine your search terms using the following special keywords, called Boolean operators:

  • AND
  • OR
  • NOT

AND
The AND operator retrieves all works that contain the search terms it separates. However, this type of search normally retrieves fewer results than if you searched for one of the terms on its own. If you have entered search terms in more than one search box, EEBO treats them as if they were combined using the AND operator.

Note: that if you want to search for the word 'and' in a phrase, such as 'love and hate', you should type the phrase into the search box and enclose it in double quotes; for example, "love and hate".

Example
To search for works that refer to the war and peace:

  • Enter war and peace in the Keyword box.
  • Click the 'Search' button.

The Search Results page will be displayed, listing all works containing the words 'war' and 'peace'.

OR
The OR operator retrieves all works that contain any or all of the search terms it separates. This type of search retrieves more results than if you searched for one of the terms on its own.

If you select more than one term from the browse index, EEBO automatically combines them in the search box using this operator.

Note: that if you want to search for the word 'or' in a phrase, such as 'love or hate', you should type the phrase into the search box and enclose it in double quotes; for example, "love or hate".

Example
To search for works that refer to the four seasons:

  • Enter spring or summer or autumn or winter in the Keyword box.
  • Click the 'Search' button.

The Search Results page will be displayed, listing all works containing any or all of the words 'spring', 'summer', 'autumn' or 'winter'.

NOT
The NOT operator retrieves all works that contain the first search term but not the second.

Note that if you want to search for the word 'not' in a phrase, such as 'love not hate', you should type the phrase into the search box and enclose it in double quotes; for example, "love not hate".

Example
To search for works that refer to the war not peace:

  • Enter war not peace in the Keyword box.
  • Click the 'Search' button.

The Search Results page will be displayed, listing all works containing the words 'war' but not the word 'peace'.

Using parentheses with Boolean operators
You can use parentheses to specify the order in which EEBO finds your search terms, as EEBO looks for any search terms in parentheses first.

Example
If you want to find records that either contain the words "west indies" near the word "pirates" or contain the words "west indies" near the word "bucaniers" you should use:

  • (west indies NEAR pirates) OR (west indies NEAR bucaniers)


 

Proximity operators

EEBO not only allows you to search for a particular word or phrase, but also enables you to refine your searches by using two proximity operators to look for words that are close to each other:

  • NEAR
  • FBY (Followed BY)

To use proximity operators:

  • Enter your first search term.
  • Enter a proximity operator.
  • Enter a full stop followed by the required number of words you want to allow between search terms; for example, near.6.

If no maximum is set, EEBO will list all items that contain the selected search terms within ten words of each other. However, you may not see all the words that you searched for until you view the Full text of the work, as only the five words directly before and after the first search term are given in the Context of Matches.

If you are performing a phrase proximity search, EEBO counts the number of words between the first word of the first phrase and the first word of the second phrase.


NEAR operator
Allows you to search for terms that have a specified distance between each other, and are in any order. For example:

  • education near female
  • sly near.6 fox

FBY operator
Allows you to search for terms that have a specified distance between each other, and are in a specified order. For example:

  • heart fby head
  • young fby.5 in love

 

Truncation and wildcard operators

EEBO allows you to list documents containing variations on a search term by using the * (asterisk) truncation operator.
The * operator can represent zero or more terminal characters in a search term.

To perform a truncation search:

  • Enter the first few letters (or stem) of your search term followed by the truncation operator.

If you are performing a phrase search, you can only use the truncation operator in the final word in the phrase.

Examples

creat*
Will retrieve entries for all documents containing the words: creature, creation, create, creating, creator, etc.

made in he*
Will retrieve matches for all documents containing the phrases: made in heaven, made in hell, made in her, etc.

You can also use the ? wildcard to replace any character in a given search term, regardless of position (as in gr?y, hono?r, ?nquiry or gothic?). EEBO will search for all terms matching your search term that have any single character or no character in the position occupied by the ? wildcard (for example grey or gray, honor or honour, enquiry or inquiry, gothic or gothick).

Note that it is not possible to use variant spelling functionality in combination with truncation and wildcard operators. If you type a search term in the form je?lo?s* your results will be processed as though you had searched with the Variant spellings box unchecked.

Examples

wom?n
Will retrieve matches for all documents containing the words woman or women.

 

Exact operators

The EXACT operator can be used to retrieve records that match your search term precisely. Simply type the word or phrase enclosed within double quotation marks and preceded by the EXACT operator. For example, type EXACT "England and Wales. Army." into the Author search field and click Search. This search will return results which have "England and Wales. Army." in the Author field, but will exclude works that feature this phrase as part of a longer entry, such as "England and Wales. Army. Council." and "England and Wales. Army. Overton's Regiment.".