Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (PEP)

Search Syntax

Note: When you specify a search, you need to find the right balance between precision and recall.

If you specify a “precise” (very specific and restricted) search, you will get fewer matching articles. This means that if your search criteria are right, you will have the article(s) you want and fewer articles that aren’t of interest.

On the other hand, if your search criteria aren’t exactly right, you may not find the article(s) or concepts you are looking for. A broader search increases recall, which means the results are more inclusive. You will have more to look through, but the result you are looking for is more likely to be there. Different query or search strategies yield different “ratios” of precision and recall.

Rules for Searching

  • Enter word(s) or phrase(s) that you wish to retrieve into the keyword input box (“Search for Words or Phrases”).
  • Use specific words instead of general ones. For example, a search for positive transference will return fewer and more targeted results than a search for transference.
  • A boolean search request consists of a group of words or phrases linked by operators such as and and or that indicate the relationship between them.


transference and countertransference Both words must be present
transference or countertransference Either word can be present
transference and not countertransference Only transference must be present
transference w/5 countertransference Transference must occur within 5 words of countertransference
transference not w/5 countertransference Transference must not occur within 5 words of countertransference

Note: If you use more than one operator, you should use parentheses to indicate precisely what you want to search for (see precedence rules below).

Use the AND operator in a search request to connect two expressions, both of which must be found in any document retrieved. For example, to search for documents containing the word countertransference and the word transference, type countertransference and transference in the keyword input box. A more complicated search: (transference or countertransference) and (enactment w/5 process) would retrieve any document that (1) contained either transference OR countertransference, AND (2) contained enactment within 5 words of process.

Use the OR operator in a search request to connect two expressions, at least one of which must be found in any document retrieved. To search for documents containing either the word “countertransference” or the word “transference,” type countertransference or transference in the keyword input box.

Use NOT to narrow your search by excluding a term you may not want. If you type positive transference in the top keyword input box and negative transference in the second dialog box, your search will return only those documents that include the words “positive transference” and exclude the words “negative transference.”

Use quotation marks around a phrase to search for an exact match of those words in sequence. For example, to find the phrase “positive transference” type “positive transference” in the keyword input box, including the quotation marks. Without the quotation marks, your search will return documents containing the word “positive” and the word “transference,” even if the words are not used together.

Use wildcard * (asterisk) for multiple endings. By typing an * (asterisk symbol) at the end of a word, you can search for items with multiple endings. For example, typing interp* in the keyword input box will return documents that include the words “interpret” “interpreter,” “interpreting,” “interprets,” and “interpreted.”
Use a question mark (?) as a wildcard for a single character. By typing a question mark symbol (?) anywhere within a term, any character (numeric or letter) will match in that position.

Dictionary Based Operators

You can also take advantage of several dictionary type operators to improve recall in your searches. This includes “stemming” (all forms of a word, including irregular forms) and thesaurus (synonym) based lookups.

To use stemming, take one form of the word and add a ~ (tilde) at the end. For example, a search for applied~ would also find applying, applies, and apply.


To further enhance search recall, PEP has incorporated an industry specific thesaurus into the site. Use the thesaurus suffix ampersand (&) to expand the effect of the search term to include conceptual synonyms. If you wrote the word paranoia&, you find articles containing words matching paranoia or synonyms of paranoia such as anxiety, suspicion, fear, mistrust, and apprehension.

Note: The PEP Thesaurus function had not yet been implemented on PEP Web as of 2006-05-11, but should be available soon.

Proximity Searches

Proximity Searches allow you to search for terms which fall within a specific number of words from each other.

  • PEP Web is defaulted to search terms, words or phrases at the paragraph level, although you can also specify article level.
  • When creating a word proximity search, you must specify a range for the search.
  • If you wanted to search for the terms countertransference, transference, and
    “acting out” within 10 words, you would write: countertransference transference “acting out” w/10.
  • Wild cards can be used in phrase and proximity searches.

Search by Fields

PEP Web is set up with multiple fields such as Author, Year, Article, Para , Reference, etc. Additionally, the “Or, And or Not” logical operators are also displayed on the search screen to further help limit your searches. The default search will look for your word or phrase within the full text and fields of the documents. If you would like to search for a specific field, you may enter those values in that field’s search boxes.

  • to search only within the References at the end of each article, select the radio button “references” and enter your search words or phrases. (Note: Normally, references are excluded from searches, so this method is the only way to search references).
  • to search only within the dreams in articles, select the radio button “dreams” and enter your search words or phrases.

Note: For simple word combination searches (and/or) using the Article radio button is less useful than using Para, unless you wanted to find an article talking about two concepts which wouldn’t necessarily be in the same paragraph or even near each other. When you try to exclude a concept from a search, using “Not”, the article radio button is more specific, since it would exclude that concept from the entire article.

Important Note: Para search is actually “approximated” by requiring that the search terms are within 25 words of each other. They may, however, actually be in different paragraphs.

Search Year

Year field may be a specific year, or a range.

The default search does not set limits according to year. You can narrow a search by year or year range by selecting from the drop down menu. Choose “Anytime,” “Since,” “Before,” or “Between” and indicate a month, day, or year.

List of search operators

Term Function How to Use Example
AND Finds one term and a second term Separate the words with a space, or separate with “and” Chronic hypochondria Polymer blue; polymer and blue
” “ Finds terms in an exact sequence Use quotation marks around the sequence “chronic hypochondria” “polymer and blue”
OR Finds one term or another term Separate terms with “or” House or Senate hypochondria or feigning
NOT Finds one term but not another Separate terms with “not” House not Senate Hypochondria not chronic
* (asterisk) Finds any terms starting with a specific sequence of letters Type the letters followed by an asterisk symbol (*) Work psychoanal* matches psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic, psychoanalyst, …
? Finds variations of a term Replace letters with the ? symbol wom?n returns woman, women
w/ Finds terms that are within a certain number of words of each other Separate words with a “w” and a slash mark (/) and the number of words which can occur between the search terms smoke w/5 transference w/5 aggressive tobacco finds “smoke transference ” and “tobacco aggressive ” within 5 words of each other (in either order)
~ (tilde) at the start of the word Finds variations of a term using an industry thesaurus Place the ~ at the start of the word. ~trauma Finds all documents matching trauma and all synonyms as derived from an industry dictionary (Klumpner)
~ (tilde) at the end of the word Stemming (word forms) Place the ~ at the end of one of the word forms apply~ returns matches for apply, applies, applied
%% Fuzzy (imprecise) matching Place % in the middle of the word, starting where you want the imprecision. The number of % signs you include determines the number of characters which can differ from the specified word and still constitute a match. psycho%%%%analysis matches psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic, psychoanalytical, …
~~ (double tilde) Range Place ~~ between two numbers representing the outside of the range 10~~20 returns matches for any number between 10 and 20, inclusive.

Use of the * wildcard character near the beginning of a word will slow searches somewhat.

Note: With PEP Web, when the radio buttons “And”, “Or”, or “Not” are selected, two Search by Word or Phrase dialog boxes display, which allows the search to be further refined according to any of the fields (Article, Para, Dreams, etc.) displayed in the PEP Web Search Criteria screen.