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Database Search Tips: Stop Words

a guide to ways to improve your searching in library databases


Stop words are common words that databases ignore because they are so prevalent. That is, stop words are not indexed for searching in the database. Simply put, you shouldn't use them when you search databases.

Stop words vary from database to database. You may wish to familiarize yourself with some of the stop words featured here, as they are probably stop words in other databases as well.

If you need to search using a word that is a stop word, use quotation marks to search it as a phrase. For example: "self in relation"

For assistance on avoiding the use of stop words in your searching, please contact your subject specialist librarian, or stop by the OSU Library Reference Desk.

ProQuest Stop Words

ProQuest ignores the following frequently-used words. To use them as part of a search phrase, enclose them with quotation marks: e.g. "the sound and the fury".

about can just out those
after could like said through
also do make should to
an each many so use
and for more some was
any from most such we
are had much than were
as has no that what
at have not the when
be how now their which
because if of them while
been into only there who
between is or these will
both it other they with
but its our this would

EBSCO Stop Words

Stop words vary by database in EBSCO, but the following represents some basic stop words:

a also an and are
as at be because been
but by for from has
have however if in is
not of on or p
so than that the their
there these this to was
were whatever whether which with

OSU Library Catalog Stop Words

If the title of a book starts with A, An, or The, ignore the first word when searching for book titles.

Ignore foreign language words such as: al, el, l', la, der.