Phrase Searching – OHIO University Libraries


Phrase Searching means searching for two or more words as an exact phrase.

Unless you specify otherwise, most databases will assume the Boolean AND connector, which means that all words must be present for a particular record to be listed in the search results, but not necessarily as an exact phrase. In other words climate change should get the same results as climate and change.


In order to search for an exact phrase you must enclose the words of that phrase in quotation marks or make the appropriate choice on the database search page:


Because phrase searches are more specific than “AND” searches, they will usually retrieve fewer records. Compare the results of these two searches in ALICE:

“Climate change”  finds fewer records than climate change without the quotation marks since it would not find a phrase such as change in the climate.

The Default

As you search various databases, you should determine which kind of search a particular database does unless you tell it otherwise. This is known as the default search. Some databases will default to (that is, automatically perform) a Phrase Search if you enter two or more words. Others will automatically insert an AND in between each of the words.

Help screens or search instructions for a database should tell you what the default is.