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Web of Science: Using a Citation Database: Summary



Use citation databases to find papers that are not in MEDLINE and to identify the core literature on a topic.

Web of Science does not use subject headings or term mapping, and it includes a broad range of topics. As a result, an effective search usually includes search operators, wildcards, quotation marks, and/or Refine Search options.

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Web of Science uses "lemmatization" to account for some plural forms of words, spelling variations, and verb tenses.

AND, OR, NOT, NEAR and SAME are the search operators available in Web of Science.

Combine synonyms and related terms with the OR operator. It is almost always best to put the terms you combine with OR into one single search box or to enclose them with parentheses.

The asterisk (*) is the most important wildcard in Web of Science. When a wildcard used at the beginning or end of a word, it is called a truncation operator.

Put quotation marks around your search terms to search them as an exact phrase. 

Quotation marks turn off lemmatization, but quotation marks and wildcards can be combined. It is often effective to use a wildcard with search words in a quoted phrase to retrieve results with word variants.

The Refine Results feature enables you focus your search with data extracted from fields of the records retrieved in your search: Document Types, Subject Areas, Source titles, Institutions, Authors, Funding information, etc.

Author names should be entered with the last name first, followed by initial(s) or first name and initials with no punctuation: Nimchinsky EA.

  • Web of Science automatically searches uses an "implicit wildcard"  to find all variations of author names and initials when just one initial is used in a name search. To restrict the author search to just that initial, put the name in quotes: "Nimchinsky E" .

  • The search engine treats hyphens (-) and apostrophes (') in names as spaces. Example: O Brian returns the same number of results as O'Brian.

  • Search for surnames that include punctuation or spaces with and without a space: Example: OBrian OR O Brian.

  • For best results in an author search, combine possible name variations with OR and search them in one singe Author search box.

  • If an author has a common last name, you may need to add subjects, institutional affiliations and addresses and/or a publication date range to refine the search.