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Use keyword search if you are looking for items on a particular topic or if you know some details of a title or author but not all.

Keywords are individual words and phrases taken from different fields in the item's records. For example, the author, title, subject or notes field.

If you know the exact title, then use a title search.

  1. How to search by keywords
  2. Advanced keyword searching
  3. How to limit your search
  4. Modifying your search

How to search by keywords

Phrase searches

Multiple keywords are always searched first as a phrase and then as single words within item records. For example, aboriginal land rights will be searched first as a phrase and then as single words – aboriginal and land and rights. By default results are ranked by relevance to your search query, but you can sort the list.

Using connectors


Combining keywords with AND results in a list of records that contain ALL the keywords, in any field in the item record and bypasses phrase searching.

fish and disease and pathogens will find records where all these words appear in any field in the item record.

Typing fish disease pathogens (without the joining and) will find the same records but the relevance of the results will be sorted differently because in this case the words will have been searched as a phrase first and then singly.


Combining keywords with OR will result in a list of records that may contain ANY one of the keywords you typed, in any field in the item record. This operator is useful for searching on synonyms or to broaden your search result.
gst OR value added tax

deaf OR hearing impaired

hayfever OR hay fever


Search words may be right-hand truncated using asterisks. The asterisks must be preceded by at least two characters.

(*) A single asterisk for up to five characters in the middle or at the end of a word.

(**) Two asterisks for an unlimited number of characters at the end of a word.
arch* will find arches, archetype, archive

arch** will find archaeology, architecture

anders*n will find anderson, andersen

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Advanced keyword searching

Advanced keyword searches can be constructed using combinations of phrases or keywords with operators, truncation and wildcards.

Using these features will override the standard keyword relevance ranking.

Combining keywords with search operators

Apart from AND and OR there are other search operators, sometimes called Boolean operators, which can be used to refine a search and make the relationship between keywords more specific.


This search operator is used to EXCLUDE words from your result list. It is always used with words you do want to find in item records. It is also useful for refining a search that has found an unexpected search result.
york AND NOT new AND NOT cape

kangaroo AND NOT wallaby


The # represents the maximum number of words between the search keywords. The words may be in any order but will occur within the same field in the item record. This search operator allows you to specify words close to each other, in any order, but not necessarily adjacent to each other.

Please note that where records have multiples of the same field, for example, subject headings, records will only be found where the search words fall within the same subject heading.

It is useful for searching on words which may be within long contents notes in item records.

architecture WITHIN 20 scully

environment WITHIN 10 periodicals

Quotation marks

Using quotation marks (“”) around a phrase will find only records that contain the words you typed, in the same order, in a single indexed field in the item record. 

 “sonata in c minor”

Keywords used as search operators

Searching for keywords that are also used for search operators requires special treatment.

To search on phrases that contain the words used as search operators: AND, OR, AND NOT, NEAR, WITHIN, BEFORE and AFTER, you will need to enclose these operator words in double quote marks so that they will be included in the phrase. Alternatively, enclose the whole phrase in double quote marks.

If you are looking for a title that begins with the phrase, prefer a title search.

"near" east

"before and after"

"within" my heart

what we should not be "and not" do

"black and blue"

Two asterisks used alone in the search box finds everything. You can combine this with various search limits to find, for example, all journals in French or an alphabetical list of all music scores.

Use of brackets

In order for searches to be processed correctly the search terms must be "nested" or grouped for processing using brackets.

(wom*n OR female) AND (renaissance OR medieval) AND paint**

(disaster within 5 management) AND (western australia OR tasmania) AND assess** AND NOT northern territory


(?) The question mark wildcard functions as a single letter within a word. This is useful if you are not sure of the spelling of an author’s surname or for geographic variations in spelling.

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How to limit your search

Field limits

Keyword searches can be made more specific by using field identifier codes. These codes allow you to find records that have keyword/s in the fields you have specified.

Each keyword or phrase must be preceded by a letter identifying the field. This is necessary even where brackets are used around words from the same type of field. For example (a:smith and a:jones) is correct; (a:smith and jones) is not correct.

  • The letter is followed by a colon or equals symbol (=).
  • No spaces are necessary between the field identifier code, the colon or equals symbol and the word to search.
  • Brackets are used in the usual way to group keywords when search operators are used.
  • Field Identifiers: a:author t:title s:subject n:note t:dirt music
    • (a:health and a:western australia) and (s:disabled or s:handicapped)
    • n=winthrop hall and s=organ music

Other limit options

Searches may also be limited using the options in the drop-down menus on the search screen. Select from the following combinations of search limits.

  • Entire collection / Online/ Books/ Journal Titles/ UWA theses / DVDs and videos/ Maps/ Law reports
  • Location of item
  • Language
  • Material type; such as music score
  • Year/s of publication.

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Modifying your search

If you don't find what you are looking for, try changing your search words and limit options. Click on the MODIFY SEARCH button on the search result screen to return to the original search screen. Make some changes and try again!

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