The many upvots on Gerrit's answer show how the majority of researches currently does search, filter, read scientific journals and books, as the best way, a context-sensitive search(X Algorithm near to Y algorithm near to Z database) is not available in scientific search engines to my knowledge? A lot of time has to be wasted for filtering out uninteresting content.

An google WEB search example would be:

etching AROUND(4) redeposition

Search hits will only show sites where etching is separated from redeposition by not more than 4 other words between those two. While many research papers often contain many keywords in intro and abstract of a paper (for retelling recent history in a field), which makes finding papers in a special context impossible (measuring effect X with method Y on material Z), in principle the AROUND(x) operator gives you this power back.

The problem is, google SCHOLAR hasn't implemented the AROUND operator, therefore I currently use it sometimes in google WEB search when searching papers (unfortunately only titles and abstracts are indexed by Google, but main body content isn't searchable) in a very specific context.

I'm really wondering if there are secret hacks for free (google scholar, scirus...) and commercial (ISI, scopus) search engines giving you the power of context-sensitive search, as it would make a lot of reading, searching, filtering, rating, sharing unnecessary.

My current way to solve this is downloading many highly-cited papers (withoud reading) as gerrit's answer shows and indexing it with my own desktop search engine (Copernic desktop search software) which has a similar operator. It really ticks me off, that a search technology that is available for years is not brought to the place where it would be most useful?! Maybe we should similar to thecostofknowledge just start to build our own search engines? There are some business reasons (traffic, downloads,..) that make the non-implementation of this operator in commercial search engines very reasonable to me...

So, am I missing some secret hacks or search engines that are near to context-sensitive/semantic search?

  • A citation based, context sensitive web-finder(search engine) would be interesting to implement! Google's around operator looks typically like a Hamming Distance implementation between two strings loaded as vectors.
    – Naresh
    Nov 1, 2012 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


I know it's disappointing, but here goes: I am not aware of features allowing context-sensitive search in scientific search engines, with two exceptions:

  • Web of Science has a SAME operator, which matches “records where the terms separated by the operator appear in the same sentence”. Given that Web of Science supports a whooping number of 4 search operators (AND, OR, NOT and SAME), it is pretty safe to say this is sadly the full extent of its context-sensitive search features.

  • SciFinder attributes some meaning to prepositions, which have a role in restricting results to “closely associated” matches of operands. This basically means “same sentence” (details in the linked page).

Yes, these features are poor and we should hope for better search capabilities. At the same time, it's a start and it can be useful.

  • thanks, I've asked on cs.se what limits implementation of such an operator for full-text, as both Web of Science and Scifinder only seem to index titles and abstracts reading your links. But good to know at least Web of Science offers it for abstracts!
    – Hauser
    Nov 4, 2012 at 19:41

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