that searching in the QuestionPoint Knowledge Bases can actually be quite sophisticated? As with the popular web search engines, a simple search box is deceptive: you can enter simple keyword(s) or you can enter keywords in various ways that tell the search engine just how to search (or not search) for those words.
Actually, you get some pretty good results by just entering keywords. The QP search engine defaults to an AND operator between more than one keyword, giving a broad, but not the broadest possible, interpretation to a multiword search term.
Take the term United Kingdom for example. If you were to enter united kingdom in the box on the Basic Search page and check just QP Global Reference Network as the KB you want to search, you would get 360 hits (as of 19 January 2009). This means 360 KB records have both the word united and the word kingdom somewhere in the text of the question, answer, and/or keyword fields. You can check that out by entering united AND kingdom in the Basic Search box (put AND in all capitals so it’s not mistaken for a word to search) or going to the Advanced Search page and entering united kingdom in the first field, labeled “Find Questions with all of the words.”
Another common searching syntax used by the general public with web search engines is to place a multiword term in quotation marks: “united kingdom”. This tells the engine to chug up only records where the two words are adjacent to one another, that is, it’s a phrase. This cuts things back a bit, though not by much—352 hits. So of those 360 records found before, only 8 were using the two words in some context other than the collection of countries known as the United Kingdom. For users not familiar with the quotation convention to specify a phrase, the Advanced Search page offers the second field, “Find Questions with the exact phrase.”
Back to the Basic page, if you enter united OR kingdom (keep OR in all caps), you’ll get an incredible 3,258 hits—records that have either the word united or the word kingdom in the text fields, but not necessarily both words. This search is the same as the third field on the Advanced Search page: “Find Questions with at least one of the words.” Enter united kingdom in that field, and you will also get 3,258 hits (remember, as of 19 January).
Finally, suppose you want to find records that use the word kingdom but you don’t want records that are about the United Kingdom. So in the Basic Search box, enter “kingdom NOT united” and look through the 44 records returned. The only trouble here, you discover, is that you cut the search a little too thin. What you really wanted was kingdom NOT “united kingdom”. That upped the score a bit, and you have a healthy 52 records that are about all kinds of kingdoms, but not the one comprising England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This search, too, is made simpler for users not familiar with Boolean operator syntax on the Advanced Search page: enter kingdom in the first field and “united kingdom” in the “Find Questions without the words” field.
You’re probably getting the picture: although the Basic Search page has only a simple search box, the experienced librarian (or patron, for that matter) can enter more sophisticated searches right there without having to select the right field on the “advanced” page.
Likewise, one can perform truncated (*), wild card (?), and fuzzy (~) searches from the Basic Search box. Click on the Help link to get further information about how to use these symbols to narrow or broaden your search.
You can even construct quite sophisticated nested search statements if there is a need. Consider paper AND (mla OR apa NOT (turabian OR “chicago manual of style”)) as a shortcut through information about the Chicago Manual of Style and its abbreviated version, the Turabian manual, to specifics from two other style manuals.
From the Advanced Search page, you’ll find you can also limit your search to a particular language, time period, subject, institution, and more. If you work primarily in a language other than English, you’ll also want to set the “Language of Search Term(s)” option, since slightly different rules sometimes apply to the indexing of different languages.
If you have any questions about how to search QuestionPoint knowledge bases, or if you would like to become an editor of the Global Knowledge Base, please contact Paula Rumbaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.