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Helpful Boolean Search Terms

The following is an addendum to the November 2015 Archivist article on using the Old Fulton Postcards website.

Boolean—Boolean is a computer language that allows the computer to narrow the search terms by adding some simple code to the search terms. While it may sound daunting, learning a few Boolean terms will help you get more out of sites like Old Fulton, and works with most search engines, such as Google!

Continuing with our example of “Reverend John Doe.” Experiment with adding the following terms to your search and see what happens. With Boolean, you can learn a few basic commands and combine them to get ever more specific with what you are looking for.

Note: Make sure to select “Boolean” from the drop-down menu before hitting “Search.”

BOOLEAN EXAMPLEWHAT DOES IT RETURN?
ANDJohn AND DoeResults that have “John” and “Doe” on the same page, note that these terms may not have any relationship to each other.
AND NOTJohn AND NOT JonathanResults that only have John, excluding any result with Jonathan.
ORJohn OR DoeResults that have “John” or “Doe” on the same page, note that these terms may not have any relationship to each other.
John Doe (minus sign before Doe)Will find documents that have a “John” on the page but no “Doe” on the same page.
“ ”“Reverend John Doe
(whole search phrase in quotes)
Results that either have only the whole name “Reverend John Doe” on the page. But if the page contains “Rev. John Doe” or “Rev. Doe,” it will not make a match. (Same as “Exact Phrasing, above.)
PROXIMITY SEARCHING
w/#John w/2 DoeInserting w and a number, in this case, w/2, will find documents that have “John” and “Doe” within two words of each other. This can be helpful if a middle name is used, e.g., “Jane Liz Doe,” as it will just look for the two words within two words of each other and ignore what is between them.
(OR) w/#(John OR Jane) w/2 DoeWill find a “John” or a “Jane” within two words of “Doe” = “John Doe” or “Jane Doe”
( )
(John w/2 Doe) AND (Jane w/2 Doe)Will find documents that have BOTH “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” on the same page
WILD-CARDSWHAT DO THEY DO?
*Rev* J*n DoeThe insertion of an asterisk allows any number of characters to be replaced as wild-cards. In this example it will return “Rev” or Reverend” and “Jonathan,” “John,” or “Jan.”
?J??n Doe
(Insert multiple question-marks, to allow for more variables.)
The insertion of a question-mark, specifies how many characters can be replaced with wild-cards. In this example, inserting two question-marks will allow it to replace two characters, “John,” “Jahn,” etc.
RANGES
~1890 ~1900Inserting a tilde will define a range of dates to search. (Note that on Old Fulton, it may look for the dates of the scans, not titles. In addition, some newspapers printed the date of publication on every page while others did not.)
COMPLEX BOOLEAN STRINGS — You can also create strings of Boolean terms, creating ever more specific search parameters.
(Filename Contains (NJ))Will return files only with NJ in the title. (Note that the search term is placed within parenthesis, and then within another set of parenthesis along with the command.)
(Rev OR Reverend) AND (John OR Jan) w/2 D?Will return either Rev or Reverend and John or Jan within two words of D?e
e.g., “Rev. John Doe,” or “Reverend John Dae,” or “Rev. Jan Peter Doe.” The possibilities are endless.