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Search Techniques

You can search for any word or phrase by just typing the word or phrase into the query form and clicking the button to execute the query. Searches produce a list of files that contain the word or phrase no matter where they appear in the text.

Rules for Formulating Queries

  • Multiple consecutive words are treated as a phrase; they must appear in the same order within a matching document.

  • Queries are case-insensitive, so you can type your query in uppercase or lowercase.

  • You can search for any word except for those in the exception list (for English, this includes a, an, and, as, and other common words), which are ignored during a search.

  • Words in the exception list are treated as placeholders in phrase and proximity queries. For example, if you searched for Word for Windows, the results could give you "Word for Windows" and "Word and Windows", because for is a noise word and appears in the exception list.

  • Punctuation marks such as the period (.), colon (:), semicolon (;), and comma (,) are ignored during a search.

  • To use specially treated characters such as &, |, ^, #, @, $, (, ), in a query, enclose your query in quotation marks (" ").

  • To search for a word or phrase containing quotation marks, enclose the entire phrase in quotation marks and then double the quotation marks around the word or words you want to surround with quotes.  For example, "World-Wide Web" or ""Web"" searches for World-Wide Web or "Web".

  • You can use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) and the proximity operator (NEAR) to specify additional search information.

  • The wildcard character (*) can match words with a given prefix. The query esc* matches the terms "escape", "escarpment", and so on.

  • Statutory citations may be searched by using either quotation marks or a wildcard; for example, searching on "112.3185(3)" or 112.3185* will return documents that contain a citation to subsection (3) of section 112.3185.

Boolean and Proximity Operators

Boolean and proximity operators can create a more precise query:

To Search For Example Results
Both terms in the same page conflict and interest Pages with both the words "conflict" and "interest"
Either term in a page conflict or interest Pages with the words "conflict" or "interest"
The first term without the second term conflict and not interest Pages with the word "conflict" but not "interest"
Both terms in the same page, close together conflict near interest Pages with the word "conflict" near the word "interest"


  • You can add parentheses to nest expressions within a query. The expressions in parentheses are evaluated before the rest of the query.

  • Use double quotes (" ") to indicate that a Boolean or NEAR operator keyword should be ignored in your query. For example, "Abbott and Costello" will match pages with the phrase, not pages that match the Boolean expression. In addition to being an operator, the word and is a noise word in English.

  • The NEAR operator is similar to the AND operator in that NEAR returns a match if both words being searched for are in the same page. However, the NEAR operator differs from AND because the rank assigned by NEAR depends on the proximity of words. That is, the rank of a page with the searched-for words closer together is greater than or equal to the rank of a page where the words are farther apart. If the searched-for words are more than 50 words apart, they are not considered near enough, and the page is assigned a rank of zero.

  • The NOT operator can be used only after an AND operator in content queries; it can be used only to exclude pages that match a previous content restriction. For property value queries, the NOT operator can be used apart from the AND operator.

  • The AND operator has a higher precedence than OR. For example, the first three queries are equal, but the fourth is not:

  1. a AND b OR c

  2. c OR a AND b

  3. c OR (a AND b)

  4. (c OR a) AND b


Wildcard operators help you find pages containing words similar to a given word:

To Search For Example Results
Words with the same prefix comput* Pages with words that have the prefix "comput", such as "computer", "computing", and so on.
Words based on the same stem fly** Pages with words based on the same stem as "fly", such as "flying", "flown", "flew", and so on