How to Search Online

Displaying Records after a Search


To do a search:

  1. Type query criteria or click a Browse index button.
    If you fill in more than one box, results must meet all criteria.
    Example: Find documents that contain the word "insurance" AND have a file date of 10-11-2002.
  2. Click the Search button.
  3. Records that meet your criteria are displayed as a report.

Finding words and phrases

Type the word you want to find (insurance) or type a phrase (health insurance) to find those words in that order. To find variations of words, type an asterisk at the end of one or more word stems (medic*). 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 the examples below.

Type this… To find…
health insurance a phrase (those words, in that order)
health / insurance either word (or both)
health & insurance items that contain both words (items that contain just one of the words will be ignored)
health policy ! medical benefit* “health policy” but not “medical benefit”
HIV p5 test* “HIV” preceding “test*” by 5 words or fewer. You can include an asterisk at the end of either word. Do not string together phrases (health w5 human resources).
needle w5 exchange “needle” within 5 words of “exchange” (before or after). Do not include phrases.

Words joined by & / ! are evaluated in left-to-right order. For example, physicians & residents / students finds index items that contain "physicians" and "residents", or items that contain "students". Use parentheses to control evaluation order: For example, physicians & (residents / students) finds index items that contain "physicians" and "residents" OR "physicians" AND "students".

Finding a Date

To find a date, use one of the formats shown below:

Dec 31, 2002
2002 Dec
Dec 02
December 2002

Do not use a forward slash to separate date elements unless you surround the date with quotation marks (for example, "12/31/2002").

You can use the symbols & / ! between dates to do AND-OR-NOT searches. For example, May 2002 / June 2002 finds all dates in May or June 2002.

You can do "less than", "greater than", and range searches for dates (see examples 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 can 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) < 2003 finds dates before January 1, 2003
<= less than or equal to
(on or before)
<= 6-15-98 finds dates on or before June 15, 1998
> greater than (after) > 2002 finds dates after December 31, 2001
>= greater than or equal to
(on or after)
>= 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)

Using a Browse Index

If a search form includes a Browse Index button, click it to display a dialog box that shows words and/or terms for which you can search. This eliminates trial-and-error searching and makes searching easier. For more information, click the Help button on the dialog box.

Using the AND-OR-NOT drop-down list

If a search form includes an AND-OR-NOT drop-down list in front of each box, you can do more advanced searches. The Boolean operator you select for a box determines how the search criteria in that box will be combined with criteria already evaluated. Boxes are evaluated from top to bottom (first box to last).

Using a regular drop-down list

If a search form includes a drop-down list next to a box, you can open the list and select one item for which to search. To clear the box, open the list again and select the blank line at the very top of the list.

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, =infectious diseases finds only that complete term (does not find just "infectious" or just "diseases" or that phrase embedded in other text).

Case and punctuation

Query criteria are not case sensitive (a search for aids finds AIDS). Punctuation is also ignored, except for the AND-OR-NOT symbols (& / !) and search symbols (for example, : = < >). If you do not want these characters to be interpreted as search symbols, use quotation marks ("Johnson & Johnson") or replace the punctuation with a space (Johnson Johnson).

Clear button

To clear search terms, click the Clear button on the search screen.

Search button

To start your search, click the Search 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, and so forth. You can also:

Troubleshooting: Searches

If you are having trouble with a search, some of the most common problems are listed below. If you do not find an answer to your problem here, see Error Messages, which lists error messages in alphabetical order.

I got the message "Unrecognizable search."

The program cannot understand the search criteria. Possible problems include:

If you cannot determine what caused the error, try a simpler search (for example, just a word in a box) to see if it works. If the search form includes Browse Index buttons, use them to construct the query, instead of typing criteria. If even simple searches do not work, contact the Policy Coordinator.

I found too many records.

If you used an asterisk, omit it and try an exact search instead (for example, search for pharmaceutical instead of pharma*).

Try using a Boolean symbol (& / !) between words to construct more precise queries. For example, to find articles about AIDS, not testing, search for AIDS ! testing.

If the item you are searching for includes punctuation, substitute spaces for punctuation (for example, search for after hours care, not after-hours care) or surround the item with quotation marks ("after-hours care").

If you are searching for a date, do not use a forward slash between date components (for example, search for 12-12-98) or surround the date with quotation marks ("12/12/98").

I did not find any records. I got the message "No results were found."

Examine the contents of the search form (especially if it is longer than the screen) to verify that you do not 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 (for example, colo*) or separate several possible spellings with a forward slash (for example, search for color / colour).

If you did a complex search, try simplifying it to eliminate confusion. If the search form has Browse Index buttons, use them to view and paste items to search for.

If you are searching for a URL, try typing it all in lower case.

If you are trying to find records that contain multiple words anywhere in the record, separate the words with Boolean symbols (& / !). Otherwise, you are doing a phrase search, which finds these words in that order.

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 the Boolean symbols (& / !).

Try using / instead of & between words. Using / means either word can be present (physician / surgeon finds physician or surgeon). Using & means both words must be present (physician & surgeon will not find just "physician" or just "surgeon").

Remember that range searches involving partial dates start from the beginning of the range. For example: <2003 means "before Jan. 1, 2003."

When I try to display records or change forms, I get the message, "Your current query has expired. Perform the search again."

The file that stored your search results has expired, so you will have to do your search again. If this message occurs frequently, contact the Policy Coordinator.

I still need help

Click on the "Ask the Policy Coordinator" button to send an email to the Policy Coordinator.





Search technology supplied by Inmagic, Inc.