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Course Research Impacts: Finding articles on a topic

Finding articles on a topic

In this part of the course we show you how to find articles on a particular topic, within Web of Science. Topics covered are:

  • Search settings
  • Search fields
  • Search operator

Search settings

These are the default settings in Web of Science:

  • All databases within the Web of Science Core Collection are searched, but you can select one or more particular databases: under More settings you can unmark the databases you don’t want to include.
  • Under Timespan ‘All years’ is marked. You can change this for example into last 5 years - this is based on the publication date. You can also enter a specific data range, then also the publication date is used.
  • Lemmatization rules are applied automatically in Topic and Title search queries, for English-language search terms. With lemmatization vocabulary, phonological and spelling variants are searched as well. For example: when you enter behavior, both behavior and behaviour are used in the search. Lemmatization is not used when the search terms are enclosed in quotation marks and when search terms are used with wildcards and/or truncation.

When you have a personal account and you're logged in, you can save the limits as your personal default settings, by clicking the button Save Settings.

Search fields

You can search Web of Science in several ways. The basic search is the default:

On the startpage of Web of Science you find one search bar (you can add more by clicking the link Add row). You select a search field in the drop down menu at the right side. (TIP: first select the field, then enter your search terms in the search bar - otherwise the entered search terms are deleted).

You can search by, for example:

  • Topic: searches all words – in article titles, abstracts, author keywords, keywords plus field (these are index terms created by Web of Science in which the terms are derived from the titles of articles cited by the author of the article being indexed).
  • Author: searches any author. First enter the last name, followed by the first initial and an asterisk (for example: Schmidt H*).
  • Publication name: searches the name of the journal or proceedings. If you select this search field, a link 'Select from Index' will appear under the field. This link brings you to the list of publication names used within Web of Science. It helps you to find and enter the correct name.
  • Author Identifiers: this can be the ResearcherID or the ORCID. See for more information the chapter 'YOU in Web of Science'.
  • Organization-Enhanced: this helps you find publications from a university or a research organization. If you select this field, a link 'Select available organizations from the Index' will appear under the field. Use this list to find the preferred name for an organization and the variants that have been identified and associated with it.

Search operators

To combine search fields these search operators are used in the search screen:

AND All search terms must occur in the search results.
OR At least one search term must occur. This is useful when you use synonyms.
NOT Excludes records containing a given search term.

These options can be selected in the dropdown menu’s between the search bars, but you can also use search operators within a search box, for example “social media” AND friend*. Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases in topic or title searches.

Truncation can be used to control plurals and variant spellings.

* Any number of characters, for example friend* gives also friends, friendship, friendly.
$ To replace zero or 1 character, for example colo$r gives color and colour.
? To replace 1 character, for example wom?n gives women and woman.


In the Advanced Search two extra search operators are available:

SAME Can be used in Address searches – the entered terms appear in the same address. In other searches SAME works like AND.
NEAR/n Finds records where the search terms are within n number of words of each other.