University of Nebraska Medical Center

Search tips: Proximity searching in Embase

By Cindy Schmidt

You want to search for articles about chemotherapy-induced diarrhea but are confronted with a plethora of alternative phrasings.  If you find yourself in this situation, give proximity searching in Embase a try. To find articles about  drug- or chemotherapy-induced diarrhea, you could use the Embase search:

(drug OR chemotherapy) NEXT/1 (related OR associated OR induced) NEXT/1 diarrh*

This Embase search will retrieve any Embase or MEDLINE record containing a phrase in which either “drug” or “chemotherapy” is immediately in front of “related” or “associated” OR “induced” and in which one of these words is immediately in front of a word that begins with diarrh (e.g. diarrhea, diarrhoea, diarrheas, diarrheic, etc.).

If you try proximity searching, be sure you enclose your OR’d alternate word sets in parentheses as shown in the example.  Use the asterisk (*) wildcard symbol when you want to retrieve any word that begins with a word trunk.

Perhaps you’re wondering why the search strategy shown above will retrieve the phrase “drug-induced.”  After all, “drug-induced” is a single word.  It is a single word, but in Embase it’s two words.  Embase, unlike most of our literature database search engines, treats hyphens like spaces.

If you want to allow the presence of an additional word between your “drug” and “related” word sets you could use NEXT/2.  NEXT/2  will retrieve any record in which the search terms you’ve specified are within two words of each other and in the order you entered them. If you wanted to allow the presence of up to 5 words between your word sets, use NEXT/6. If you don’t care about word order but just want your words or word sets to be within 6  words of each other use NEAR/6.

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