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6.4.8  Proximity operators (NEAR, NEXT and ADJ)

In some search interfaces it is necessary to specify, for example by using the ‘NEXT’ or ‘ADJ’ operator, that two search terms should be adjacent to each other, as the search might simply default to finding both words in the document as if the ‘AND’ operator had been used. It should be noted that the ‘NEXT’ operator in The Cochrane Library is more sensitive (i.e. retrieves more hits) than the alternative method of phrase searching using quotation marks, since quotation marks specify that exact phrase whereas the ‘NEXT’ operator incorporates auto-pluralization and auto-singularization as well as other variant word endings.


In addition, it is possible in many search interfaces to specify that the words should be within a specific number of words of each other. For example, the ‘NEAR’ operator in The Cochrane Library will find the search terms within six words of each other. This results in higher sensitivity than simple phrase searching or use of the ‘NEXT’ operator but greater precision than use of the ‘AND’ operator. It is, therefore, desirable to use this operator where available and relevant.