Getting Better Results with Web of Science

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

CSES, HORT, AECT, PLPA, HESC Agriculture Librarian

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Necia Parker Gibson
Mullins Library 422 (Level 4, Librarians' suite)

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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 eutrophication AND agricultur*

should work much better than a complete sentence, such as "How does the quality of water in a river affect the eutrophication produced by agricultural runoff?" because the software tries to find the whole sentence if you type one.

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 rarely and with care.

You may also use NEAR as a way to find terms that are close together more specifically than using AND. NEAR by itself gets the words within fifteen words of each other. NEAR/#, where # is a whole number, finds the terms within that # of each other, like NEAR/5.


Five Top Tips for Searching Web of Science

1. Web of Science (WoS) doesn't have a thesaurus or list of subject terms. They do have 'categories', but those don't show until after you've done a search. You may have to use synonyms or related terms OR'ed together to draw a more complete set of article citations.

For example: (palm oil OR palm kernal oil) for the crop; (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 rather than 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.

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 on 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: Tomboulian D*

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.

The Affiliation field may work better. For example, the list for University of Arkansas looks like this:

shows the several campuses that show if you type "university of Arkansas' into the affiliation search


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:

search operator precedence in Web of Science: near/x, where x is an integer; same; not; and; or

"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 for and the time frame makes a difference in the numbers. Our version currently includes the journals indexed back to 1945, but does not include book citations, for example.

The newest version of Web of Science includes Author Impact Beam Plots,  which illustrate how often an author's work has been cited over time as compared to similar publications in similar years:

beam plot example from Anitti Iho, from Finland

 author beam plot, a comparison of citations against similar articles over time

No More Stop Words

Common words that used to be ignored or skipped by the software (such as 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."

two-letter field codes

  • AB= Abstract
  • AD=Address
  • ALL=All Fields
  • AI=Author Identifiers
  • AK= Author Keywords
  • AU=Author
  • CF=Conference
  • CI=City
  • CU=Country/Region
  • DO=DOI
  • ED=Editor
  • FG=Grant Number
  • FO=Funding Agency
  • FT=Funding Text
  • GP=Group Author
  • KP= Keywords Plus®
  • OG=Organization - Enhanced
  • OO=Organization
  • PMID=PubMed ID
  • PS=Province/State
  • PY=Year Published
  • SA=Street Address
  • SG=Suborganization
  • SO=Publication Name
  • SU=Research Area
  • TI=Title
  • TS=Topic
  • UT=Accession Number
  • WC=Web of Science Category
  • ZP=Zip/Postal Code

See also Advanced Search Examples