Current Awareness Strategy Blog

7 quick tips to become an accomplished Vable search expert


needle in a haystack

In some cases, natural language processing or automatic concept searching might not bring back exactly the articles you want. This is where your information professional can assist. We are always happy to listen to your requirements and then share our Boolean search skills with you to fine-tune your results.

Vable’s sophisticated Boolean searching gives you the flexibility to construct precise search strings, which yields far more relevant results than most other methods. However, you might have to spend a little time thinking about the type of material you are looking for. Consider this an integral part of the process. It will affect the type of search language you will use, so consider synonyms and alternative words and phrases.

Broadening your search

Using the OR connector between similar words will immediately ensure a broader search. Including truncation marks such as * to the stem of a word will also broaden it. So if you want to see a broad set of results for variations on both boats and ships, enter boat* OR ship*. This will return articles that include boating, boats, ships, shipping, etc.

Narrowing your search

Normally broadening your search won’t be the issue, quite the reverse! Remember that Vable automatically assumes AND between words in your searches, which helps focus your results. Incidentally, when I am constructing complex searches, I tend to add an AND for visual search clarity.

Adding “” around words to create a phrase search can immediately produce improved results. If it is a proper noun, acronym, or case sensitive in general, then add capitals and apply the exact match functionality to help you further. You can then connect two or more phrases with AND to create a focused and relevant search.

Modifying your search

Once you have thought about exact phrases, you can then consider proximity searching. Proximity searching is a way of searching for two or more words that occur within a certain number of words from each other. This may not narrow your search but pick up on other relevant hits.

The phrase “law firm advertising” works well as an initial search but consider the effects of searching for “law firm* advertis*”~5. Not only will the truncation add flexibility, but proximity searching will allow for grammatical and word order variations, for instance, ‘advertisements by law firms’.

Once you have a fair list of results, you can then use their summaries and keywords as a guide to add or exclude terms. Such is the flexibility of Vable, you can either use AND NOT or the minus symbol (-) to exclude a specific word or phrase. Entire industries or subjects can be added or excluded from the search with a single click.

Once you have a collection of relevant words and phrases with all your ORs, ANDs, and AND NOTs, consider using brackets to ensure they are searched in the right order. Information within brackets is searched first, and then anything outside is next. Always check you have equal numbers of “” () in the right places.

It has recently come to my attention that there is a brilliant form to get you started on search construction. Note: The connectors in the example below are not designed for Vable 

Screenshot 2023-10-11 at 12.54.50

Final hints and tips

  • Use Vable taxonomy to immediately improve the relevance of your search
  • Create bespoke Vable filters to search across your publication collections
  • Check your punctuation and spelling - consider UK or US spellings
  • Be patient and refine your search until you find what you want!

Tell us about your complicated searches? What is the most unusual search you have ever run?

Interested in improving your end user's search results?

Subscribe by email