Getting our heads around Ebsco Cinahl: The adjacency search is different

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2008 by Danielle Tagged: , , , ,

Thank you to my colleague Rosalind for pointing out this quirk of Ebsco Cinahl to me.  As you may know, Ovid is quite flexible with adjacency searching, allowing more than one option on either side of the ‘adj’ (the adjacency symbol).


(meningococc$ or meningitid$) adj3 (infection? or disease? or septic?emi$).ti,ab

However, in Ebsco Cinahl, this ONE search line would require EIGHT lines to execute.  Yes, you have read that correctly!


(TI “meningococc*” N3 “infection*”) or (AB “meningococc*” N3 “infection*”)

(TI “meningococc*” N3 “disease*”) or (AB “meningococc*” N3 “disease*”)

(TI “meningococc*” N3 “septicemi*”) or (AB “meningococc*” N3 “septicemi*”)

(TI “meningococc*” N3 “septicaemi*”) or (AB “meningococc*” N3 “septicaemi*”)

…and four more for the ‘meningitidis/es’ concept (if you were to truncate to meningitid*).

My interpretation, I think, is fairly generous, as you can see I’ve put both title (TI) and abstract (AB) on one line, whereas many people would split them on two lines apiece. I had previously searched ‘the Ovid way’ but in Ebsco and received over 10,000 hits for a line of an adjacency search–one that garnered me about 200-300 in Ovid.  Thus I found all this out the hard way!

The reason that ‘septic?emi$’ cannot be translated is that we have not found a suitable wildcard symbol in Ebsco that will stand in as an optional one character wildcard (either 0 or 1 characters is present).  In Ovid, the ? fulfills this role.  Ebsco has 2 wildcards: the * is for truncating any number of characters, and ? is for a single character (but acts as an obligatory one character).

Did you notice that each term is encased in quotation marks?  These are very easy to leave out.  In fact, I had forgotten to put them into the example above, and had to go back to do this just now.  In Ebsco Cinahl if you forget them, the search will still run, but with zero hits for that line.  You then need to delete it (or each instance of this mistake if you have goofed several times), and each time a window pops up to ask you if you really want to delete the line.  I recommend you pre-book an appointment with your physiotherapist because there is plenty of clicking needed here and you’ll be at increased risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI).

25 November note: A rep from Ebsco got in touch with me after reading this post to set me straight on a couple of things:

1. There is no need to use double quotation marks around individual words–Hooray!

2. The # is not used as a wildcard nor as a trucation symbol.  Which is good, because it didn’t work!

3. They will take into account a couple of my gripes and see if it is possible to search multiple fields at a time and not have the warning pop-ups for every search line that you delete.

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