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Archive Finder: Search Syntax

Boolean operators, Proximity Indicators, and Wildcard Characters

Boolean operators

Archive Finder allows you to combine your search terms so you can target your search at more specific areas. For example, from the Repository Search page you can list records for repositories in Archive Finder which contain the words military and vietnam.

You combine your search terms using the following special keywords, called Boolean operators:  AND, OR, NOT

AND --  The AND operator retrieves all records that contain the search terms it separates. However, this type of search normally retrieves fewer results than if you searched for one of the terms on its own.

e.g. military AND vietnam

If you have entered search terms in more than one search box, Archive Finder treats them as if they were combined using the AND operator.

Note that if you want to search for the word 'and' in a phrase, such as 'records and diaries', you should type the phrase into the search box and enclose it in double quotes; for example, "records and diaries".


OR --  The OR operator retrieves all records that contain either or both of the search terms it separates. This type of search retrieves more results than if you searched for one of the terms on its own.

e.g. Army OR Navy

If you select more than one search term from a list, Archive Finder automatically combines them in the search box using this operator.


NOT --  The NOT operator retrieves all records that contain the first search term but not the second.

e.g. immigration NOT Mexico

Proximity operators

Archive Finder not only allows you to search for a particular word or phrase, but also enables you to refine your searches by using two proximity operators to look for words that are close to each other:

  • NEAR
  • FBY (Followed BY)

NEAR --  The NEAR operator retrieves records that contain one search term within 10 words of the other specified term.  For example:  landscape NEAR architecture

FBY --  FBY retrieves records containing one search term followed by another. For example:  e.g. presidential FBY manuscripts

Wildcard characters

Archive Finder allows you to list documents containing variations on a search term by using the * (asterisk) or ? (question mark) wildcard characters.

Use an asterisk to find variations on a word ending.  For example:  work* finds work, works, working, worker, workman, workmen

Use a question mark in the place of a letter to find variations in spelling (note that this can only be used in the middle of a word).  For example:  wom?n finds woman and women.

If you are performing a phrase search, you can only use wildcard operators in the final word in the phrase.