Hi everyone and thanks for looking

I really hope I'm not asking a daft question, but I want to exclude a term unless it comes with another term in a search containing multiple strings. In my precise example, I am looking at global forests and I want studies from India and Africa to be included but only where the forest type is "temperate forest". I don't want any results with India or Africa in the title/abstract/keywords unless the term 'temperate forest' is also there.

I have several search strings which work together so an example would be:

woodland OR woods OR forest


fragmentation OR disturbance


"soil communities" OR (soil* AND biota)

If I add to the first string OR (India AND "temperate forest"), I will get studies about temperate forests in India, but I will also get studies about every other forest/woodland type in India due to the other primary keywords, 'forest', 'woodland' etc. So is there any way to exclude India but keep the India + "temperate forest"?

  • Find your friendly local research librarian and have a chat with them.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 13, 2023 at 16:15
  • 2
    Living rurally in the middle of nowhere, I have email access to several friendly, but extremely busy, research librarians who have a rough response time of 4-5 working days. Hence, I chose to put the question to a willing and knowledgeable community who tend to respond the same day, as needs must.
    – user197410
    Jun 14, 2023 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


I'm not an expert, but perhaps using nested search terms with proper search terms may help:

((woodland OR woods OR forest) AND (fragmentation OR disturbance) AND ("soil communities" OR (soil* AND biota))) AND (("India" OR "Africa") AND "temperate forest")

The outer parentheses are for the core of your search where you are primarily looking for articles about woodland/forest fragmentation or disturbance that also mentions soil communities or soil biota.

The second part of the search, which follows the AND is looking for articles that also mention either India or Africa AND the term "temperate forest".

The AND operator ensures that only articles that meet all of these conditions are included. The OR inside the second parentheses ensures that articles that mention either India or Africa are considered, but the AND operator right after makes sure that these articles also need to mention "temperate forest".

I tried it out on Scopus and got 743 results (recently lost access to WoS). My only credentials here is I have done some bibliometrics studies.

  • 1
    Excellent, this does the trick for what I needed, thank you, I knew the answer was obvious, but think systematically reviewing tens of thousands of science papers makes the brain go fuzzy sometimes.
    – user197410
    Jun 14, 2023 at 14:12

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