Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Default Operator - What's that all about?

So, you're looking for a two or more word phrase either in a search engine or in a proprietary database. Let's use the phrase ice cream headaches.

The default operator usually refers to the Boolean or positional operator the system has been instructed to apply between the words. And it makes a big difference in the retrieval...

Ovid and the Web of Science, for example, have a default operator of adjacency. Adjaceny forces the system to look for the word 'ice' to be adjacent to the word 'cream' to be adjacent to the word 'headaches'. This is the tightest relationship possible between these three words.

Web search engines, as you've probably discovered, mostly have a default operator of AND. By checking the HELP or Search Tips for your favorite search engine, you can discover the appropriate technique for ensuring that the phrase you're looking for is actually searched as a phrase. Usually the technique is to enclose the phrase in quotation marks, like this: "ice cream headaches".


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