How to Search

Overview

A boolean search request consists of a group of words or phrases linked by connectors such as and and or that indicate the relationship between them. Examples:

king and queen

Both words must be present

king or queen

Either word can be present

If you use more than one connector, you should use parentheses to indicate precisely what you want to search for. For example, king and queen or village could mean (king and queen) or village, or it could mean king and (queen or village).

Noise words, such as if and the, are ignored in searches.

Search terms may include the following special characters:

?

Matches any single character. Example: appl? matches apply or apple.

*

Matches any number of characters. Example: appl* matches applied, applying, apply.

~

Stemming. Example: apply~ matches applied, applying, apply.

%

Fuzzy search. Example: historic% matches historica, historic, historic-.

~~

Numeric range. Example: 1820~~1850 matches 1846-48, 1843, 1829.

:

Variable term weighting. Example: king:4 w/5 queen:1

Words and Phrases

You do not need to use any special punctuation or commands to search for a phrase. Simply enter the phrase the way it ordinarily appears. You can use a phrase anywhere in a search request. Example:

king w/5 queen

If a phrase contains a noise word, it will be ignored when searching. For example, a search for city of new york would retrieve any document containing the word city, any intervening word, and the word new.

Punctuation inside of a search word is treated as a space. Thus, haven't would be treated as a phrase consisting of two words: haven and t.

Wildcards (* and ?)

A search word can contain the wildcard characters * and ?. A ? in a word matches any single character, and a * matches any number of characters. The wildcard characters can be in any position in a word. For example:

appl* would match applying, apply, applied, etc.

*cipl* would match principle, discipline, etc.

appl? would match apply and apple but not apples.

ap*ed would match appeared, approved, etc.

Use of the * wildcard character in a word across "All Guides" will slow searches.

Fuzzy Searching

Fuzzy searching will find a word even if it is misspelled. For example, a fuzzy search for historik will find history. Fuzzy searching can be useful when you are searching text that may contain typographical errors, or for text that has been scanned using optical character recognition (OCR). There are two ways to add fuzziness to searches:

  1. Enable fuzziness for all of the words in your search request. You can adjust the level of fuzziness from 1 to 10.
  2. You can also add fuzziness selectively using the % character. The number of % characters you add determines the number of differences that will be ignored when searching for a word. The position of the % characters determines how many letters at the start of the word have to match exactly. Examples:

Stemming

Stemming extends a search to cover grammatical variations on a word. For example, a search for applied would also find applying, applies, and apply. There are two ways to add stemming to your searches:

    1. Check the Stemming box in the search form to enable stemming for all of the words in your search request. Stemming does not slow searches noticeably and is almost always helpful in making sure you find what you want.
    2. If you want to add stemming selectively, add a ~ at the end of words that you want stemmed in a search. Example: apply~

Variable Term Weighting

When sorting search results after a search, by default all words in a request count equally in counting hits. However, you can change this by specifying the relative weights for each term in your search request, like this:

king:5 and queen:1

This request would retrieve the same documents as king and queen but, king would be weighted five times heavier as queen when sorting the results.

AND Connector

Use the AND connector in a search request to connect two expressions, both of which must be found in any document retrieved. For example:

red river and hudson's bay would retrieve any document that contained both phrases.

(king or queen) and (queen w/5 village) would retrieve any document that (1) contained either king OR queen, AND (2) contained queen within 5 words of village.

OR Connector

Use the OR connector in a search request to connect two expressions, at least one of which must be found in any document retrieved. For example, red river or hudson's bay would retrieve any document that contained red river, hudson's bay, or both.

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