Search tip: Use of generative AI in Web of Science

Published on
October 26, 2023

Web of Science (WoS) has implemented generative AI in its search interface. This search tip will teach you how the AI enabled search in WoS works and what to be aware of when using it.

Generative AI in Web of Science

All users have access to the AI enabled search in Web of Science. Once you have performed a simple or an advanced search in WoS, WoS will suggest keywords to add to your query. You can also start free typing in the “add keyword” box, and WoS will create an autocompleted list as you type. If you decide to directly add these keywords to your query, they'll be added by using the “simplified Boolean logic” from WoS.

Suggested keywords

The suggested keywords may be good synonyms to add to one of your concepts. However, they may broaden or narrow your search beyond your specific research question. Keep in mind the goal of your literature search and always carefully consider the suggested terms before adding one to your search. Ask yourself if the term is relevant to your search.

Adding the suggested keyword to your query seems simple: you just click on it. It'll be added by using the WoS ‘simplified Boolean logic’. However, we recommend that you manually update your query with the new keywords and not use the WoS ‘simplified Boolean logic’.

Simplified Boolean logic

In Web of Science, the simplified Boolean logic works as follows:

  • ‘Should include’ replaces ‘OR’
  • ‘Must include’ replaces ‘AND’
  • ‘Do no include’ replaces ‘NOT’

When using simplified Boolean logic, you are not in control of how the keyword is added to the search query. WoS isolates your original search query and adds the new search term as one of the following:

  • a synonym to your entire initial search query that broadens your search and leads to non-relevant literature when combined with 'should include';
  • a new concept to your initial search that narrows your search and you miss relevant literature when combined with 'must include'.

This is why we recommend using the suggested terms as inspiration and to manually add them to your search query within the matching concept.

Example of WoS ‘simplified Boolean logic’:

Our original search query was TS=((nutrition OR diet* OR lifestyle) AND obesity) and it retrieved 141,700 results

One of the suggested keywords is “overweight”.

Term added with “should include”:
TS=((nutrition OR diet* OR lifestyle) AND obesity) and Overweight (Search within topic) retrieves 230,874 results. You receive the same results as your initial search plus all the literature about “overweight”. Your search has been broadened beyond your original research question and you get a lot of non-relevant literature.

Term added with “must include”:
TS=((nutrition OR diet* OR lifestyle) AND obesity) and Overweight (Should – Search within topic) retrieves 34,253 results. You receive results including “overweight” within the results obtained from your first search query. You've narrowed your search and now you're missing relevant literature.

Term added manually with standard Boolean operators:
TS=((nutrition OR diet* OR lifestyle) AND (obesity OR overweight)) retrieves 152,742 results. These are all your initial results plus all the results including the aspects of lifestyle combined with overweight, which is the desired outcome.

Additional tip

You can check how WoS exactly processes your query in your search history. Go to Advanced Search through the homepage of WoS and scroll down to see your search history from your current session.