Operators and special characters

You can use a range of operators and special characters to broaden and/or refine text searches Text Search query.

  • If your search for entry has more than one term, NVivo treats the terms as if they are connected by the OR operator—i.e. it returns every file that has at least one of the terms in it (unless they are stop words Text content language and stop words). For example, if you search for small town economy, the search will return every file with small, town, or economy in it (as well as files that have two or more of the terms).

  • If you want to find files that have the phrase, 'small town economy' use double quotes: "small town economy"

  • Text searches are not case sensitive

Boolean operators

Operator Description Syntax Example

OR or
| (pipe) or
& (ampersand)

Searches for items containing either (or both) of two terms.

When you enter multiple words or phrases without an operator, the OR is implied.



AND or
&& (two ampersands)

Searches for items containing both terms.


NOT or
- (hyphen) or
! (exclamation mark)

Searches for items containing the first term but not the second term.

Cannot be used with a single term.



Indicates a required term. Searches for items containing the required term and optionally the second term.

+A B

Wildcard and proximity characters

Wildcard characters can be used in place of one or more characters in order to broaden a search to include related terms. Proximity characters allow you to find terms only when they are close to other terms.

NOTE  Wildcard characters can only be used for single terms, not phrases. They cannot be used as the first character of a term.



Will find

Use an asterisk (*) as a substitute for zero or more characters—cannot use as first character.


will find get, great and gt

Use the question mark (?) as a substitute for a single character—cannot use as first character.


get and got but not great or grunt

Use the tilde (~) after a word to find words that differ by one character (added, removed or substituted) from the search term.



colors and colour
analyze~ analyzes and analyse

Use the tilde (~) followed by a number to finds words that are within a specified word distance from each other.

"happy busy"~10 Searches for instances of the words happy and busy within 10 words of each other

Other special characters

Character Name Use

( )

Round brackets

Groups clauses to form subqueries

" "

Double quotes

Enclose a phrase to search for the entire phrase