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General searching tips

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Here are some general tips on how to enter your search terms.

Search statements

Capitalisation

Search statements may be entered in uppercase, lowercase, or mixed case. All search statements are automatically changed to lowercase when the search is performed.

Punctuation

For the purposes of searching:

  • The ampersand (&) is treated as if it were the word "and" spelled out.
  • Apostrophes are removed.
  • Most other punctuation marks are replaced by spaces.
  • The system treats repeated spaces or repeated punctuation marks (other than the ampersand and the apostrophe) as a single space, such as " --- " is treated as " ". Whether or not these punctuation marks are included has no effect on a search.

Examples of equivalent searches:

  • All the King's Men = All the Kings Men
  • Fathers & Sons = Fathers and Sons
  • O'Malley, Walter = Omalley Walter
  • Mexico--history = Mexico history

Phrase searches and headings

Author, title, and subject searches are "phrase searches" (as distinct from keywords or call number searches).

Records containing a particular heading may be retrieved by entering as much or as little of the heading as desired. The system will retrieve all the records containing headings which begin with the characters entered in the search statement (note that the search statement is matched against the beginning of the heading).

For example, keying an author search for "SMITH" or "smith" will retrieve all of the records containing "Smithsonian" in an author field (a field included in the author index), as well as all those containing "smith". Entering "sm" will retrieve all records containing authors whose names begin with "sm", such as "Smythe", "Smart", and so on.

To instruct the system to restrict a search to just the search statement entered (and not to expand it by searching the index for all headings beginning with the search statement), key a vertical bar (the '|' character) at the end of the search statement (the vertical bar is sometimes called a "pipe" character). For example, a search for "cat|" will only retrieve records with the heading "cat", not records containing headings beginning with "cat", such as "catalogue" or "catch" or "cat domestic", and so on .