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Statistical Insight: Search Syntax (boolean searching etc)

A quick overview to help you get started using Statistical Insight

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For a PDF version of this page of the guide, use this link.

Quotation Marks (Exact Phrase)

To find an occurrence of an exact phrase, enclose it in quotation marks.


The search is not case-sensitive or punctuation-sensitive. “Flow-of-funds” returns the same number of results as “flow of funds.” The quoted search works across all of our data including Tables and PDF text. If you put parentheses around a quoted phrase, you get the same results you would without parentheses. 


Tip:  Do not combine quoted and unquoted words in a single search.

Tip:  Do not use a wildcard within quotation marks; the search engine will interpret the * or the ? literally.


Enclose part of a Boolean expression in ( ) to establish precedence—i.e. establish which operation should occur first.  


(dog food) OR (cat food) = dog food and/or cat food occurs in a single field


Tip:  The use of quotation marks disables automatic stemming feature and forces an exact match.

Thesaurua/Alternative Spellings or Terms

A thesaurus automatically retrieves and highlights alternative versions of words like Al Qaeda. The thesaurus will also support access to synonyms.


GDP = Gross Domestic Product; Consumer spending  = consumer expenditures and personal consumption; cars = automobiles


Connectors (Boolean Commands)

(Most effectively used on the Advanced Search page using the In A Single Field pulldown)



Using the logical connector AND between terms narrows a search by requiring that all terms be present.  Adding AND to a search generally reduces the number of records retrieved.

Dogs AND cats = both terms in a single field


Using the logical connector OR between terms broadens a search by adding terms to the search query. Use OR to add synonyms or similar terms to a search.  Adding OR to a search generally increases the number of records retrieved.

Dogs OR cats = both terms or either term in a single field


The logical connector NOT narrows a search by eliminating records in which the term after NOT appears. Adding NOT to a search generally reduces the number of records retrieved. NOT=AND NOT.  

Dogs NOT cats = dogs occurring in a single field without any cats to bother them


Tip:  The single field search largely eliminates the need for a proximity search of the abstract.







replaces a single letter   


 mari?uana =  marijuana and marihuana





replaces an infinite number of letter following a root word


foreclos* = foreclose, foreclosed, and foreclosure



Stemming (Singular/Plural and Alternative Words)





Stemming automatically retrieves plurals and other valid alternative word forms. Plurals are converted to their stem (or root) forms at index-time for a fast, accurate search. Stemming will work on any unquoted search.


Mine retrieves mine, mines, mineral, minerals.



Tip: The use of quotation marks turns stemming off and forces an exact match.


Alternative Words


A stemmed search for a word finds the exact same term as well as terms that derive from the same meaning and part of speech as the search term. The stem of a word is not based on spelling. For example, card and cardiac have different stems even though the spelling of cardiac begins with card. On the other hand, running and ran have the same stem (run) even though their spellings are quite different. A search on card will not return “cardiac,” but a search on ran will return “running.” 

Mine (also) retrieves mineral, minerals.



Tip:  To search beyond a word stem, you should use a wildcard.


Displaying Search Results

Relevance Ranking


(1)   The RR algorithm gives the highest ranking to an occurrence of search terms as an intact phrase in the title, the notation of content, or the first paragraph of the abstract.

(2)   Next, an occurrence of all the search terms near one another in a single field.

(3)   Next, an occurrence of search terms as an intact phrase elsewhere in the abstract (e.g. a listed table in the abstract).

(4)   Next, an occurrence of all the search terms near one another in a single field other than the title, notation of content, first paragraph.

(5)   Next, occurrences of all search terms within a single table record.


These additional factors will influence the ranking:  Publication dates (the most recent five years ), number of occurrences (more occurrences may be scored higher), length of the record (occurrence in a short abstract will be weighted more than one occurrence in the body of a long abstract).

Advanced Search



A single field                           


Search word(s) occurring in the title field, notation of content, single paragraph in abstract, a single table description, a single table record. This search is identical to the Basic Search.

All fields except full text           

Searches all fields, except tables and PDFs.

All fields including full text           

Searches all fields including tables and PDFs.


Document Title

The term must appear in the title of the document.


Table Title       

Opens an option for you to select all tables associated with a search result, or tables that match your search.



Any document found by your query must have come from the specified

source or publisher.


Document number      

Searches both the accession number and the SuDoc number. (SuDoc, which stands for Superintendent of Documents, is a classification number assigned to federal documents by the Government Printing Office).


Subject/Index Terms   

Enables you to type a keyword and then click Find to browse through a specialized thesaurus to find the subject and index terms that are most relevant to the information you are searching.