General Search Help

Table of Contents


It's easy to find the information you want!

  1. Type query criteria. If you fill in more than one box, results must meet all criteria. Example: Find documents that contain the word "marketing" AND have a file date of 10-11-98.
  2. Click Submit Query.
  3. Documents that meet your criteria are displayed as a report.
  4. To change the way documents appear, pick a form from the droplist.

Finding words and phrases

Type the word you want to find (bauxite) or type a phrase (electron paramagnetic resonance) to find those words, in that order. To find variations of word stems, type an asterisk at the end of one or more words (elast* wave*). Use the symbols & / ! between words or phrases to represent Boolean AND, OR, NOT. Include a space before and after the symbol. Use the proximity operators w# (within) and p# (preceding) to find words near each other. See examples below.

Type this... To find...
Mesaverde Group a phrase (those words, in that order)
lead / zinc either word (or both)
lead & zinc items that contain both words (items that contain just one of the words will be ignored)
polar regions ! mars "polar regions" but not "mars"
forties p5 field "forties" preceding "field" by 5 words or fewer. You can include an asterisk at the end of either word. Do not string together phrases (forties w5 oil field).
field w5 forties "field" within 5 words of "forties" (before or after). Do not include phrases.

Words joined by & / ! are evaluated in left-to-right order: red & white / blue finds items that are red and white, or items that are blue. Use parentheses to control evaluation order: red & (white / blue) finds items that are red and white or red and blue.

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Finding a Date

To find a date, use any reasonable format, including but not limited to the examples shown below:

31-Dec-98 Dec 31, 1998 1998 Dec Dec 98 December 1998 12-98

Do not use a forward slash to separate date elements unless you surround the date with quotation marks ("12/31/98").

You can use the symbols & / ! between dates to do AND-OR-NOT searches. For example, May 1998 / June 1998 finds all dates in May or June 1998.

You can do less than, greater than, and range searches for dates (see below).

Doing "less than," "greater than," and "between" searches

You can search for items greater than or less than a certain value, or within a range. This is most commonly done when searching for dates, but may also be done when searching for values or text. Use the symbols shown below. When used with a partial date, these symbols search from the beginning of the date (first day of the month or year). A range consists of two values, low and high, separated by a colon. Include spaces around the colon.

Symbol Meaning Example
< less than (before) < 1998 finds dates before January 1, 1998
<= less than or equal to <= 6-15-98 finds dates on or before June 15, 1998
> greater than (after) > 1998 finds dates after December 31, 1997
>= greater than or equal to >= 500 finds values greater than or equal to 500
: between 1997 : 1998 finds dates from Jan. 1, 1997 through Dec. 31, 1998 (inclusive)
200 : 300 finds values between 200 and 300 (inclusive)

Using the AND-OR-NOT Droplist

If a search form includes an AND-OR-NOT droplist in front of each box, you can do more sophisticated searches. The Boolean operator you select for a box determines how the search criteria in that box will be combined with criteria already evaluated. Boxes are evaluated from top to bottom (first box to last).

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Finding a term (exact, complete match)

A term is a complete item, with no additional text before or after. To search for a term, precede it with an equal sign (=). For example, =john smith finds only that complete term (does not find just "john" or just "smith" or that phrase embedded in other text).

Case and Punctuation

Case in query criteria is usually ignored (a search for joe smith finds Joe Smith). Punctuation is also ignored, except for the and-or-not symbols (& / !) and the colon for range searches ( : ). If you want these characters to be interpreted literally, use quotation marks ("Smith & Wesson") or replace the punctuation with a space (Smith Wesson).

Reset Button

To clear query criteria, click the Reset button on the search form.

Submit Query Button

To start your search, click the Submit Query button.

Displaying Records After a Search and Using Navigational Features

A successful search finds one or more records, which are displayed in your web browser as a report. Use the browser controls as you normally would, to browse, print, go back, etc. You can also:

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Troubleshooting and FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

Having trouble with a search? Some of the most common problems are listed below. If you don't find an answer here, take a look at ERRORMSG.HTM, which lists error messages in alphabetical order.

I got the message "Unable to recognize as a correctly formed query."

The program cannot understand the search criteria. Possible problems include:

- Typographical errors
- Mismatched quotes or parentheses
- Extra Boolean search symbols (e.g., you should have typed car / auto instead of car / auto / )
- Missing quotation marks around symbols that can be misinterpreted. For example, search for "".

If you cannot determine what caused the error, try a simpler search (e.g., just a word in a box) to see if it works. If the search form includes Word Wheel buttons, use them to construct the query, instead of typing criteria. If even simple searches don't work, contact the webmaster for the site.

I found too many records.

If you used an asterisk, omit it and try an exact search instead (search for computer technology instead of comp*).

Try using a Boolean symbol (& / !) between words to construct more precise queries. For example, to find articles about mythology, not cartoons, search for hercules ! cartoon.

If the item you're searching for includes punctuation, substitute spaces for punctuation (search for db textworks, not db/textworks) or surround the item with quotation marks ("db/textworks").

If you're searching for a date, don't use a forward slash between date components (for example, search for 12-12-98) or else surround the date with quotation marks ("12/12/98").

I didn't find any records.

Examine the contents of the search form (especially if it is longer than the screen) to verify that you don't have query criteria left over from a previous search.

If you are not sure of the spelling, use an asterisk after the first few characters (colo*) or separate several possible spellings with a forward slash (search for color / colour).

If you did a complex search, try simplifying it to eliminate confusion. If the search form has Word Wheel buttons, use them to view and paste items to search for. This eliminates guess-work.

If you are searching for a URL, try typing it all in lower case.

If your search includes Boolean symbols (/ & !) or range searches (:), put spaces around the symbols.

Do not use words (and, or, not) for Boolean operators. You must use symbols (& / !).

Try using / instead of & between words. Using / means either word can be present (john / paul finds John or Paul). Using & means both words must be present (john & paul will not find just "John" or just "Paul").

Remember that range searches involving partial dates start from the beginning of the range. For example: <1998 means "before Jan. 1, 1998."

If the search form includes an "Enter password:" box, use a password that provides access to the fields you are searching. Contact the site's webmaster for a password.

When I try to display records or change form displays, I get the message, "Your current query has expired. Perform the search again."

The query set file that stored your search results has expired, so you'll have to do your search again. If this message occurs frequently, contact the webmaster for the site.

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