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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Web of Science (EN): Find out more

Combining search terms

If you use more than one search term in a search string (= a combination of search terms), almost all search systems will search for documents containing all the terms mentioned. If you want something different, you must indicate this yourself by using operators (the so-called Boolean search).

The best known operators are:

AND: all terms must occur. With this operator you combine different aspects of your subject.
Example: festivals AND drugs AND youth
OR: at least one of the terms must occur. With this operator you can combine different variants of one aspect
Example: (stress OR burnout OR anxiety)
NOT: exclude this term (do not to use it too often or too early in your search, you do not always know what results you exclude).
Example: party NOT political

Exact phrase "... ...": terms must appear in exactly this order.
Example: "social media"

Truncate with *
Example: behavio* to search for behavior, behaviour, behavioral, behavioural, behaviorism, ... in one go

NB! Operators and the meaning of operators can differ per database.

Proximatoren en wildcard in Web of Science

In Web of Science you can use the 'proximity' operator NEAR/x next to the previously mentioned operators.

Use NEAR/x to find sources with search terms that are used within a certain distance. Replace the  x for the maximal amount of words between both terms. For example (Germany NEAR/10 "monetary union") gives results where the term "Germany" is found within 10 words from the term "monetary union".

Here you can find More about the use of operators in Web of Science

In Web of Science you can use the following Wildcards:

  • The asterisk (*)  can be used to replace a group of letters (including no letter) 
  • The question mark (?) replaces 1 letter
  • The dollar sign ($) replaces 0 or 1 letter

Here you can find more information about the use of wildcards in Web of Science.




Search by subject

  1. Basic Search: type your search terms in the search box and use the default option 'Topic'
  2. Use English search terms (if other languages are not needed).
  3. You can limit your search to, among other options, publication date, document type or open access articles (options available in the column left of the list of results).
  4. Sort your results on date, relevance or number of citations (above list of results).

Searching for authors

  1. Choose in "Basic search" in the pulldown menu the option: 'Author'.
  2. Use the 'Select from Index' option if the author has a very common name or if you want to find multiple variants of a name.
  3. Choose 'Create citation report' (after you performed the search) if you want to know the number of publications and citations of the author and the h-index. Pay attention to the fact that you must be sure you have only the publications of one and the same author.
  4. You can also use the Author Search beta option. Here you can also search by Web of Science ResearcherID or ORCID-ID.

Cited Reference search

Next to searching for literature Web of Science also offers the option of searching for citations. With Cited Reference Search you can search with a combination of author name, title of journal and publication name. After clicking the button "Search"  you can see the citations.


Scopus and Web of Science

The market for multidisciplinary citation databases is dominated by Web of Science and Scopus. Web of Science is older (started in 1961) and has a very solid reputation among scholars. Scopus is the young contender (2004), but is now also very well known worldwide. The databases have become more and more alike, but there are still some important differences.


  • >23,000 journals (with a better coverage of journals from Asia and South, Middle and Eastern Europe), Scopus covers only scientific articles and no editorials, book reviews etc.
  • >210,000 books and (more and more) book chapters with full citation info
  • Visit the Scopus Content Coverage Guide for up to date numbers
  • Includes over 450,000 pre-1900 documents
  • Includes cited references for articles published after 1970
  • More records have an abstract (WoS only >1991/92 for (Soc.) Science and >2000 for Arts&Humanities)
  • Better support for author search
  • Availability of many third party apps with special functionality
  • Much more generous download limit (20,000)
  • Better coverage in the subject areas technology, geosciences and social sciences

Web of Science

  • >21.000 journals
  • >116.000 books
  • Visit the Web of Science Summary of Coverage for up to date numbers
  • All items in a journal are indexed: editorials, letters to the editor, obituaries, introductions to special issues, book reviews etc.
  • Includes cited references for articles published after 1900
  • Good book review coverage (where Scopus has none) a plus for Arts & Humanities
  • Can sort search result based on number of citations
  • Integration Web of Science ResearcherID with Publons 
  • Link to Journal Citation Reports

Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search are also multidisciplinary scholarly databases with citation information, but support for citation analysis is limited and their data quality control is not as rigid as that of WoS and Scopus.

Sort your search results

The default sort order is by publication year (recent to older).  In the top bar above your results you can find the option to:

  1. sort by times cited, articles which are the most often cited will come on top.
  2. sort by relevance: results which best match your query, for instance because the search terms occur in the title, come on top.
  3. sort by usage count, recently added (more), conference/source title (more) and first author (more).

Too few results, what to do now?

If you get too few results, you can:

  • Use less specific terms
  • Broaden you search by adding alternatives to your search terms in an OR relation (for instance: segregation OR discrimination);
  • Broaden your search by entering different word versions: either in an OR relation (for instance: segregation OR segregated) or by breaking off your search terms on the word stem (truncation) if the search engine supports this option (for instance: segregat*);
  • Broaden your search by removing an aspect/variable
  • Check (again) if you used the correct spelling of your terms
  • Use other search engines and databases

Too many results, what to do now?

If there are too many results to show or view you can:

  • Adjust the order of results: sort by relevance or the number of citations per article
  • Specify your search by using more specific search terms or by adding an extra subject-related aspect to your search query
  • Limit to 'Citation Index' (only in the tab Web of Science)
  • Limit the number of results by the Research Areas indicated, to the left of the search result
  • Limit the number of results by Publication Date or Document Type
  • Limit the number of results with one of the other options

UBUlink: availability of publications

In your search for scholarly literature you may sometimes find the UBU-link. This link provides information about the availability of the publication via the University Library, in digital as well as in paper format.

UBUlink, quickly to the publication

In the case of digital publications the UBU-link provides direct access. For print publications the UBU-link gives information about availability at Utrecht University Library. Sometimes the UBU-link is in the form of a yellow button, but it can also be a text link.