General Search Tips

Searching Made Easy

Enter your search terms in the input box on the home page. The Entire Document option is selected, but you may search by Keyword instead. You may also limit your search by publication date.

Use Advanced Search when you need to enter additional search criteria.

Browse an entire issue using Browse by Date.

Tip: When browsing or searching by date, keep in mind that The Times was not published on Sundays.

Too Many Results

With the expansive dates of coverage in this archive, you may find your searches produce too many results not pertaining to what you are looking for. This may be especially true when your search terms consist of common words or names. Here are some ways improve your search:

Too Few Results

You can generally increase the number of search results by selecting an Advanced Search index that performs a broader search. The following sample results show how the number of results increases by changing the index.

  Search Index Search Term Hypothetical Number of Results
Search #1 Article Title bradford fire
Search #2 Keyword bradford fire
Search #3 Entire Document bradford fire


Tip: Keep track of the searches you have performed on the Search History page. Here you will find the number of results produced by each search and links to re-run or revise the search.

Searching Phrases: When to Use Quotation Marks

For Advanced Searches using the Entire Document, Keyword or Article Title indexes, the search engine looks for the presence of your search terms in any order with up to four words between them, not including articles and small, common words (known as stop words). Therefore, it is generally not necessary to do anything special other than enter your terms.

For example, possible results for a search on man in the mirror (without quotation marks) could include articles containing the following lines of text:

"...The Man in the Mirror is subtitled..."

"...a man looks in the mirror..."

"...a polished mirror, the man in relation to his glory..."

"...the Mirror Man becomes bigger and stronger..."

Tip: Once the search engine finds at least one occurrence of your phrase in proximity in an article, it will highlight every occurrence of each significant term, even if some occurrences do not include the entire phrase. Articles and other small, common words are not highlighted.

When should you use quotation marks around your search terms? If you are looking for words in a specific order. Or if you are searching on a phrase that contains and, or, or not and you do not want those words treated as logical operators. Examples:

"man in the mirror": The system focuses only on the significant words, man and mirror, and looks for documents where man appears in close proximity before mirror, with no intervening words between, or only words such as a, the, this, to and the like appearing in the phrase. Thus, "man in the mirror" as well as "man looks in the mirror" would be found, but "a polished mirror, the man in relation" would not.

"time's winged chariot": Will only find documents where these words appear in the exact order listed, with no intervening words between, or only words such as a, the, this, to and the like appearing in the phrase.

"black and white photographs": Here the and is treated as a word and not as a logical operator.

Limiting by Publication Date

When using the Publication Date limiter in a Basic Search or an Advanced Search, use the radio buttons to select Before, On, or After and then use the drop-down lists that appear to enter all or part of a date. To enter a range of dates, select Between and use both sets of drop-down list boxes to select the starting and ending dates. When limiting by publication date, you must enter at least the Year portion of the date.

Tip: When using the Year drop-down list, you can type the year and the selector will move accordingly through the list.

Limiters-Only Search

With Basic Search and Advanced Search you can leave the search input boxes blank and select only from the search limiters.

Searching: The Technical Details

This section is for those users with complex research needs or who are interested in a more technical explanation of how the search engine works.

What the Search Engine Ignores

Stop Words

Stop words are small, common words that are ignored in the text of documents. This includes words such as a, an, as, at, in, is, on, that, the, which, and the like. The list of stop words varies by product.

If you include stop words in your search query without using quotation marks, they will be ignored. A search on the secretary of state is the same as secretary state. When displaying your search results, the system will highlight the stop words that were ignored. Learn more about searching for phrases enclosed in quotation marks.

Searching Names

It is not necessary to type a person's name in any certain order. Thus, an Author index search on michelle higgins is the same as higgins, michelle. When a name contains a middle initial, you may enter it, though it is not necessary. For example, an Author search on fannie ward finds both Fannie B. Ward and Fannie Brigham Ward. However, if an author uses a first initial, or first and middle initials, it is best to include the initials in your search. Example: a. o. scott

Searching Acronyms

It is not necessary to type the periods when searching acronyms. Thus, a search on UN is the same as U.N. (and is also the same as: un).

Logical Operators

You may use logical operators (also known as Boolean operators) in your search queries:

Logical Operator Description Example Notes
AND Finds all your search terms in the searched text. children and travel Generally speaking, you do not need to use AND between your search terms as the search engine automatically looks for all your search terms in proximity to one another. However, you can use AND to find terms anywhere in the searched text, and not just in proximity to one another. The AND operator is most effective when doing an Advanced Search using the Entire Document index.
OR Finds one, some or all of your search terms in the searched text. postmortem or autopsy OR is good to use when searching for variant spellings or synonymous terms.
NOT Use before a term that must not be found in the searched text. crime not murder It is generally better to enter what you are looking for, rather than what you are not. So rather than searching on crime not murder, search on a specific aspect of crime, such as campus crime, hate crimes, organized crime, and so on.

Tip: When you want to search on and, or, or not as words rather than logical operators, enclose your search terms in quotation marks.

For example: "black and white photographs"

Learn more about searching for phrases.

Wildcard Characters

Wildcards let you substitute symbols for one or more letters when you do not want to include, or do not know, exact spellings.

There are three wildcard characters:

Wildcard Description Example Notes
* The asterisk stands for any number of characters, including none. A search on carib* finds: Carib, Caribs, Carribbean, caribe, caribou Many Gale databases require a minimum number of characters (usually three) before you can use the asterisk wildcard, so the following search would not be allowed: ma*
? The question mark stands for exactly one character. A search on psych????y finds: psychiatry and psychology (but not psychotherapy).  
! The exclamation point stands for one or no characters. A search on colo!r finds: color and colour  

Proximity Operators

Proximity operators are used between two search terms to indicate that the terms must occur in a record within a specified distance of each other for that record to match. Words that are close to each other are more likely to be related than words that are far apart.

A proximity operator has two components:

There are two proximity operators:

Wn The W (within) operator specifies that the word that follows the operator must occur within n words after the word that precedes the operator for a record to match. For example, the search expression shared w3 values matches any records in which the word values occurs three or fewer words after the word shared.
Nn The N (near) operator specifies that the words on either side of the operator must occur within n words of each other in either direction for a record to match. For example, the search expression memory n5 repressed matches any records in which the words memory and repressed occur within five or fewer words of each other in either direction.

You can use proximity operators only when searching indexes made up of individual words, such as a title index. They are most useful in indexes of large areas of text, such as keyword and full-text indexes.

Note that proximity operators can be used only between two words, not between a word and an expression within nesting operators (parentheses):

Invalid expression: fleas n10 (dogs or cats)
Valid alternative: fleas n10 dogs or fleas n10 cats

Related topics:

  • Advanced Search Examples