Library Reference Desk and Helpline: x3210

How to Search Online

How to Search Online

Displaying Records after a Search


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 records that contain the title "journalist" AND have the author "Smith".
  2. Click Search or hit "Enter".
  3. Records that meet your criteria are displayed as a report.
  4. Initial search results will be listed in brief format. For more information on a specific record click More.

Finding words and phrases

Type the word you want to find (journalist) or type a phrase (freedom of speech) to find those words, in that order. To find variations of word stems, type an asterisk at the end of one or more words (free* speech). 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…
freedom of speech a phrase (those words, in that order)
journalist / newsman either word (or both)
freedom & press items that contain both words (items that contain just one of the words will be ignored)
newspapers ! globe “newspapers” but not “globe”
press p3 freedoms “press” preceding “freedoms” by 3 words or fewer. You can include an asterisk at the end of either word. Do not string together phrases (clinton w5 white house).
press w3 freedoms “press” within 3 words of “freedoms” (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.

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)

Special Collections

The Freedom Forum Library has several special collections. Ask the reference desk librarian to help you if you need assistance locating them. Call numbers beginning with the following letters indicate a special collection:

    REF = Reference collection.
    B REF = Reference Biography collection.
    Q REF = Reference Quote Book collection.
    TFF = The Freedom Forum documents collection.
    DOC = General documents collection, annual reports, etc. not produced by The Freedom Forum.
    FOLIO = Oversized documents collection.
    ANPA = Historical documents of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.
    AV = Audio/Visual collection.
    NEWSP = Historic newspaper collection.
    NEWSP TBLD = Historic magazine and tabloid newspaper collection.

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.

Search Button

To start your search, click the Submit Query button.

Displaying Records After a Search

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:

Troubleshooting: Searches

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 WPMSG.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.

I found too many records.

If you used an asterisk, omit it and try an exact search instead (search for newsprint instead of news*).

Try using a Boolean symbol (& / !) between words to construct more precise queries. For example, to find articles about Orson Welles, but not Citizen Kane, search for Welles ! Kane.

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 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."

When I try to display records or change forms, 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.



This is the end of the HELP file.

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