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Proximity Searching

Proximity searching is an advanced search technique that allows you to find words or phrases that appear close to each other within a specified distance, in any order.  It is a useful technique to use if you have a concept that is difficult to describe because there are many variations.

Proximity Operator

The proximity operator used is often "N" for NEAR (find terms within X words of each other in any order).

The number after the operator specifies the maximum number of words between the search terms.  For example, (injury OR pain) N5 (“upper extremity” OR shoulder OR arm OR wrist) would find results where injury OR pain and “upper extremity” OR shoulder OR arm OR wrist appear within 5 words of each other.


It is important to remember that not all databases use proximity searching, and the syntax used differs between databases.

Proximity operators for different platforms:

Platform / Database Operator Example
EBSCO N health N3 interprofessional
ProQuest N/ health N/3 interprofessional
Ovid ADJ health ADJ3 interprofessional
Cochrane NEAR/ health NEAR/3 interprofessional
Scopus W/ health W/3 interprofessional