This snapshot, taken on
25/10/2005
, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date.
 
 
The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites.
Home *
Services *
*
Policy *
*
About the FCO *
*
* search
*  Go
 
Print
 
*
* * *
*
Sitemap Search Page Subscribe Page Feedback Page Home Text Only
*
*
*
* * *
*
*
*

*
Tips and Help on Searching

There are two types of Search that can be performed, a Simple Search and an Advanced Search. A Simple Search is performed by entering text into a Search Text Box and hitting ‘enter’ or clicking on the ‘go’ button. To perform an Advanced Search, click on the Search link on the left-hand side of the webpage. This will navigate to the Advanced Search form.

Simple Search

Simple Query Syntax

The Simple Search uses Simple Query Syntax. The operators plus (+) and minus (-) are used to indicate words or phrases that are required or prohibited in the search results. For example, the following query expression requests documents that must contain the word results and can also contain the phrase year end:

“year end” +results

The following query would return all documents that contain the word results and not the word year:

+results –year

The Simple Query Syntax also allows for the use of wildcard characters (*). See the section under Advanced Search on the use of wildcard characters.

Advanced Search

Boolean Query Syntax

The Advanced Search uses Boolean Query Syntax. Boolean Query Syntax involves the use of logic operators BEFORE, AFTER, ATLEAST, AND, OR, NOT, NEAR, LT, GE and WITHIN. For example, the following query requests that either of the words apple or pear appear in the same document with either of the words tart or pie.

(apple OR pear) AND (tart OR pie)

The following is a list of all Boolean operators that are available:

Operator
Symbol Equivalent
Action and Syntax
AND
&
Finds only documents containing all of the specified words or phrases. For example: pumpkin AND pie
OR
|
Finds documents containing at least one of the specified words or phrases. For example: apple OR orange
NOT
!
Excludes documents containing the specified word or phrase. For example: spaghetti NOT meatballs
NEAR
none
Finds documents containing both specified words or phrases within ten words of each other. For example, “cheese NEAR biscuits” will find all documents where “cheese” appears within ten words of “biscuits”.
WITHIN
none
Returns documents containing both specified words or phrases within “n” words of each other, where “n” is the number of words. For example, “cheese WITHIN 5 biscuits” will find all documents where “cheese” appears within five words of “biscuits”.
BEFORE
none
Returns documents that contain words in the relative order specified. For example, “cheese BEFORE biscuits” will find all documents where “cheese” appears before “biscuits”.
AFTER
none
Returns documents that contain words in the relative order specified. For example: “cheese” AFTER “biscuits” will find all documents where “cheese” appears after “biscuits”.
ATLEAST
none
Returns documents that contain a minimum number of occurrences of the specified search term. For example: “pizza ATLEAST 5” will find all documents in which “pizza” appears five or more times.
LT
none
Returns documents that contain less than “n” occurrences of a word or phrase. For example: Bill LT 5, which is the same as NOT (Bill ATLEAST 5)
GE
none
Finds documents that contain greater than or equal to “n” occurrences of a word or phrase. For example: Bill GE 5

( )
Grouping allows you to place parentheses around terms in order to change the way in which the query is interpreted. For example, (bmw AND mercedes) NEAR cars AND NOT (used OR ferrari). As in Algebra, expressions within parentheses are acted upon first, so first a page is examined to see if it contains both the words bmw and mercedes and does not contain the words used or ferrari. Then the software checks that the words bmw and mercedes are within ten words of the word car.

If you need to use a word such as OR or NEAR in a query, enclose the word in double quotes to distinguish it from the operator of the same name. For example: to look for the city of Portland and either Oregon or its United States postal service abbreviation, OR, enter Portland AND (Oregon OR “OR”).

The Boolean Query Syntax follows a default order of precedence (NEAR, NOT, AND, OR) when interpreting a query that has several operators. For complex queries, however, use parentheses to indicate the order in which you want the search engine to interpret the operators.

Searching with Wildcards

Asterisk (*)
After three or more specified characters will search for matches in up to five trailing letters. Only letters not numbers are matched.
Question Mark (?)
After three or more specified characters will match exactly one more letter.
Double Asterisk (**)
More flexible as it will search for matches for an unlimited number of trailing characters after three or more specified characters.

Using thesaurus with the ‘#’ character

It is possible to search for a word and its synonyms by appending a ‘#’ to the end of the word you wish to search for. For example, assuming English has been chosen as the language, the following search query:

acceptable# and plant

would effectively do a search for the following query:

(acceptable OR satisfactory OR tolerable) and plant

Note: the thesaurus functionality only works if a compatible language has been selected from the drop-down menu. See the Supported Languages section below for a list of these languages.

Using stemming with the ‘@’ character

It is possible to search for a word and its stems by appending a ‘@’ to the end of the word you wish to search for. For example, assuming English has been chosen as the language, the following search query:

acceptable and plant@

would effectively do a search for the following query:

acceptable and (plant OR planted OR planting OR plants)

Note: the stemming functionality only works if a compatible language has been selected from the drop-down menu. See the Supported Languages section below for a list of these languages.

Sort by

When text is entered into the Sort By box, the search results are ordered in relevancy to the words in the Sort By box. For example, if a search is done for documents containing the word ‘plant’, sorted by ‘seed’, the results returned will all contain the word ‘plant’ but will be ranked by the occurrence of the word ‘seed’. If a document does not contain the word ‘seed’ but does contain the word ‘plant’, it will be returned but with a search relevancy of 0%.

Linguistics radio buttons – thesaurus, stemming and phrase recognition

If the thesaurus or stemming radio buttons are selected, stemming and thesaurus is performed on every word separated by a Boolean operator (see above for details on the effects of thesaurus and stemming). If the phrase recognition radio button is selected the query is checked for phrases and any phrases found will be surrounded by “ “. For example, assuming English has been chosen as the language and all of the linguistics radio buttons selected, the following search query:

plant AND acceptable AND new york

would effectively do a search for the following query:

(plant OR planted OR planting OR plants) AND (acceptable OR satisfactory OR tolerable) AND "new york"

Note: the linguistics functionality only works if a compatible language has been selected from the drop-down menu. See the Supported Languages section below for a list of these languages. Note also, if the EXACT mode has been selected, these features will not be used.

Supported languages

A search can be done for documents written in any of the languages in the drop-down menu. If a search is to be performed for documents in any language, set the language drop-down to ‘Any Language’.

Linguistics functionality, thesaurus, stemming and phrase recognition can only be performed when one of the following 10 languages has been selected.

  • Danish
  • English
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Norwegian
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

Mode

There are 4 modes that can be selected.

  • NONE – no mode has been selected. This allows you to choose your own operators such as ‘government and policy or fco near sector’, or to have no operators at all, such as ‘government projects’.
  • AND – the equivalent of the Boolean operator ‘AND’ being placed between all words in the query after phrase recognition has taken place should it have been selected. If the query already contains Boolean operators and AND mode is selected, a searching error will occur.
  • OR – the equivalent of the Boolean operator ‘OR’ being placed between all words in the query after phrase recognition has taken place should it have been selected. If the query already contains Boolean operators and OR mode is selected, a searching error will occur.
  • EXACT – the equivalent of enclosing the entire search query in quotes. The words are searched for exactly as they appear in the query.