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Advanced search guide

This screen is a detailed guide to the way in which the free-text search logic works in these catalogues. Mostly the logic follows common conventions, but there are some exceptions. The following guidelines should be used:

Combining search terms

  1. Join words with 'and', 'or', 'and not', eg:
    • tea and coffee will find records containing the word tea and the word coffee
    • tea or coffee will find records containing the word coffee or containing the word tea
    • tea and not coffee will find records containing the word tea but not also containing the word coffee


  2. Two or more consecutive words without 'and', 'or', 'and not' will be treated as a phrase, eg:
    • tea planter will find records containing the phrase tea planter, but will not find records containing the phrase (say) tea and indigo planter


  3. Phrases and single words can be combined with 'and' etc., eg :
    • tea and not tea planter will find records containing the word tea, excluding those which contain the phrase tea planter


  4. Multiple terms can be joined together, within the rules of logic, eg :
    • east and india company and not east india company will find records containing east and also containing the phrase india company, but exclude those containing the full phrase east india company


  5. In complex expressions, 'and' is processed before 'or', eg:
    • planter and tea or indigo will find records which contain planter and also contain tea, or those which contain the word indigo.
      however
    • tea or indigo and planter will find records which contain indigo and also contain planter, or those which contain the word tea. This is not the same as the previous search!


  6. Use parentheses within long expressions to clarify the order of 'and', 'or', 'and not' .
    • (tea or indigo) and planter will find records containing either tea or indigo, and also containing planter
      This will give the same result if entered as planter and (tea or indigo)

      Note that the result of this search is not the same as the result of either of the previous versions without parentheses. These are equivalent to, respectively, (planter and tea) or indigo and tea or (indigo and planter). It is therefore strongly advised that you use parentheses whenever combining 'and' and 'or'.

Truncation

  1. Use * to truncate words or phrases and search on word 'stems', eg :
    • comp* will find records containing the word company, compared, comptroller etc. etc..


  2. Truncation is applied to the whole phrase (as defined according to rule 2 above) where relevant, ie to every word in it, eg:
    • eas ind comp* will find records containing the phrase east india company or eastern indies comptroller etc. etc..


  3. Truncation can be mixed with other terms in combination, eg:
    • east and ind co* and not eas ind comp* will find records as in example 4 above [east and india company and not east india company ], but will also include other matches on ind co* (eg industrial conurbation) and would exclude other matches on eas ind comp* (eg eastern indies comptroller

Use of quote marks

  1. Single- or double- quotes around words or phrases are ignored in searching, and so are redundant, eg:
    • 'tea' and 'coffee' is equivalent to tea and coffee


  2. Single quotes within words are treated as text to be found, eg:
    • o'connor will find records containing the name o'connor.


  3. However, note that when the single quote is used as a prefix or suffix in transliterated words, it is ignored in the search and so is effectively optional, eg:
    • Ali will find records containing the name Ali or the name 'Ali
    • 'Ali will find exactly the same set of records.
    • 'Ali and not Ali will not then retrieve the 'Alis and filter out the plain Alis, but will in fact retrieve nothing.

Use of terms from indexes

  1. When using index terms in the free-text search forms, you need to be aware of the above rules for interpreting entries. Mostly there will be no problem and the index term will simply be interpreted as a phrase (Rule 2) and processed correctly. However, if the index term contains the words 'and', 'or' 'not' or 'near', then these will be treated as boolean terms and not as part of the phrase, thus giving misleading results, eg:
    • pen-and-ink searched directly from the Medium index in Prints & Drawings selects items whose medium is 'pen-and-ink'. However pen-and-ink copied into the 'Medium' search box retrieves items whose medium contains pen and also contains ink - almost 3 times as many hits.
 

Please note that the 'Search' icon in the left hand sidebar links to the search engine for the British Library website. That search engine does not cover the India Office Select Materials Catalogues.

 

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