Getting Better Results with Web of Science

A guide to Web of Science and some of its features.

Searching in Web of Science

Search Web of Science using your chosen terms, along with Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT (or the operators in the dropdown menus).

For example, a search like: (water quality) and (benthic or lotic) and macroinvertabrate*

should work much better than a complete sentence, such as "How does the quality of water in a river affect the ecology of benthic or lotic macroinvertabrates?" because the software tries to find the whole sentence if you type one in.

Note: The truncation symbol * works in two ways-- use it at the end of a term to get variations such as other word endings and plural forms, or place a * in front of a term to get other words that have prefixes, such as *carbon* would get carbon, but also hydrocarbon, polycarbonate, and so on (sometimes called left truncation).

So, you could put in a search such as (water quality and *hydrochlor*) to retrieve records about water quality and hydrochloric acid, but it would also get citations that listed water quality and any other chemical with a "hydrochlor" in the middle of the chemical name but with descriptive parts ahead of and after the term. I use left truncation with care.

Five Top Tips for Searching Web of Science

1. Web of Science (WoS) doesn't have a thesaurus or list of subject terms. Therefore, you may have to use synonyms OR'ed together to draw a more complete set of article citations.

For example: (Twelfth Night OR 12th Night) for the play's title

2. Web of Science uses abbreviated journal titles of its own making in cited reference searches. Check the list to find what they are using as an abbreviation. However, you may search using the full title as a publication name search in the 'regular' search. WoS includes indexing to some conference proceedings.

3. Search for cited authors using the format Lastname Initial* to get a better result--

for example, (Oliver L* or Oliver LR* or Oliver L*R*) generally works better than Oliver, Lawrence R., or Oliver, Laura R. Many science citation styles specify authors' names with initials instead of full names. Use the author index when you choose an author search to find name variations for the same author.

4. Web of Science allows cited author and cited reference searching-- but it is not indexing ALL possible relevant journals or conference proceedings. It often doesn't show all cited references to books or book chapters. You may need to use other databases to get a comprehensive search.

5. Choosing the 'related records' link on the right side of a citation page will bring up a list of other articles that have cited references in common. This is often useful, especially for works that are similar but didn't have the search terms in them. 

Finding Funding Sources in Web of Science

1. Search for articles which relate to your research topic in Web of Science.

2. From the results page, open the Funding Agencies limiter menu, which is lower on the left side of the page, below document types.

3. Select the one you are interested in, such as National Science Foundation from the list. Note that there may be more than one designation; it may be rendered as NSF in some cases, or the full name in others. 

4. The articles listed in the results can provide you with the contact information of researchers who have been awarded funds. Contact researchers to ask about their broader impact statement and how they implemented their programming, or examine their materials to find other clues. 

Authors' names and cited references

Authors' names can vary in the way that they are recorded and cited. The author index, which shows below the search bar if you choose an author search in Web of Science will give you the various forms of an author's name, and then you can select the various choices and get a more comprehensive author search. An author with a distinctive name is easier: Chomsky N*

Be careful. Last names and initials in common can still cause confusion among authors. Even a less common name may draw up more than one author's works, or works by the same author but in different fields in a few cases.

Increasingly, if you have searched for an author's name before, it will be hard to search for variations of that author's name; this is especially true if the author has put together an author's profile or 'Researchers ID' for this product. It may help to clear the browser cache and click clear on the search page.

Search Tips, continued

You may use SAME between terms to get them in the same address, e.g., University SAME Arkansas. There are also versions of the address field that work better, such as the "Organization-Enhanced" field. For example, the list for University of Arkansas looks like this:

However, a search with: Joyce SAME James and Ulysses would work like Joyce AND James AND Ulysses. This is a change in the software.

A search with  a phrase inside quotation marks, like "James Joyce" gets those two words together in that order; so does "benthic macroinvertebrates."

You may use NEAR/x between terms, to get the first term within x number of the second term. This will find the terms in any order.

Use the "Find It" button or link to locate items.

 


 

According to the WofS help pages:

"If you use different operators in your search, the search is processed according to this order of precedence:

  1. NEAR/x
  2. SAME
  3. NOT
  4. AND
  5. OR

copper OR lead AND algae finds all records in which both lead AND algae are present as well as all records in which the word copper is present.

(copper OR lead) AND algae finds all records in which the word algae is present together with either copper or lead."

Be Aware of What You Are Searching In

Be aware of what you are searching in, as well as for, especially if you are trying to use Web of Science as a source for metrics for evaluation. Different versions exist, and what is searched and how far back in time makes a difference in the numbers. Our version currently includes the journals indexed back to 1945, but does not include book citations, for example.

 

No More Stop Words

Common words that used to be ignored or skipped by the software (and, the, a, in, was, and others) are no longer skipped. Therefore, you may need to use the words in the search statement, i.e., "The Wind in the Willows."

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