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This advice will help you improve your results when using the full-text search:

1. Use at least two or three search terms. By using more search terms to narrow your search, you can locate documents that fit your information needs better (Note: By default, the search engine only produces results containing all of the words you specify. See Search Operators below to learn how to use the AND, OR, NOT, and proximity operators.)

2. Be specific. When looking for documents about ancient Rome, enter both of those words in your search query. If you enter just Rome, your search may give you essays that discuss modern Rome or Rome, N.Y., in addition to ancient Rome.

3. Find an exact phrase with the help of the W operator. You can narrow your searches by requiring that the search terms appear as a phrase in the order that you typed them. For example, when looking for works that discuss European travel, search for these words as a phrase, European W1 travel. (It literally means find European "within 1 word of" travel.) This narrows the results from hundreds of matches to a few dozen matches, assuming the phrase typed is not too common.

4. Mix phrases and single search terms in the search box. For example, enter "ancient Rome" AND Caesar.

5. Broaden your search by using the OR operator. For example, "Great Britain" OR England. Unless you tell the search engine otherwise, it finds only those works containing all of the words specified. By using OR between search words, terms, or phrases, you’ll find works that contain as few as one of the requested words. Using the OR operator will increase the number of results that are found; use OR if the search isn’t finding enough works.

6. Use plural or other word endings. For example, when looking for discussions of murder, search for various forms of the word using the OR operator as the connector, e.g. murder or murders or murderer or murderous. It is also possible, depending on the desired search term, to use the truncation (or wildcard) feature to retrieve multiple forms of a word, e.g., murder*.

7. Try using synonyms for your original words. For example, enter "nervous breakdown" or "mental breakdown" or "nervous disorder" or "mental instability".

8. Check your spelling. If you type “literature” instead of “literature”, your search won’t find any matches, unless you have ‘Apply Variations’ selected


The search engine is not case sensitive. That is, use of capitalization does not affect the results of a search. For example, the following full text searches are considered the same:

caesar and antony or "ancient Rome"
caesar AND antony OR "ancient Rome"
Caesar and Antony or "ancient Rome"
cAEsar and antony or "ancient ROME"

Hyphen. A hyphen (-) used between two words is considered part of the term. When searching for a word or phrase that normally contains a hyphen, include the hyphen:


Ampersand. Ampersands (&) are not recognized by the search engine. Use the W (Within) proximity operator. (See Search Operators below to learn more about proximity operators.)

Tulips W2 Chimneys (means "tulips within two words of chimneys"; instead of Tulips & Chimneys)
Socialism Radicalism W2 Nostalgia (instead of Socialism, Radicalism & Nostalgia)

Gale Primary Sources archives support searching on and display of diacritics--letters that include phonetic markings, e.g., á, ô, ü, etc.--and special characters such as Æ and ø, which often occur in foreign-language terms and names.

Searching on a term that includes a diacritic, such as "Abbé", will return results matching both "Abbé" and "Abbe". Likewise, a search on "Abbe" will return results matching both "Abbe" and "Abbé".

Diacritics can be included in a search term or phrase by either copying and pasting a term containing a diacritic into the search term box, or by typing the diacritic using special combinations of keys on a standard keyboard. A useful document that provides information on using a standard keyboard to produce diacritics and other special characters is available online from Pennsylvania State University.

Truncation (Wildcard) Characters
The * (asterisk) and ? (question mark) and ! (exclamation point) are used to search for words or numbers sharing a similar pattern. 

The * and ? and ! replace alphabetical and numerical characters.

The * (standing for any number of characters) is placed at the end of the term’s root. The search retrieves all words sharing the same root. For example, the term faith* retrieves works that contain the words faith, faithful, or faiths.

The ? is used to replace exactly one character within a word to retrieve various forms of that word. For example, the term wom?n retrieves works that contain either woman or women; and psych????y matches either psychology or psychiatry but not psychotherapy.

The ! point stands for one or no characters. For example, analo!! matches analog, analogs, and analogue but not analogous.

Boolean Search Operators 
The operators AND, OR, NOT, and proximity operators may be used to refine your search. Whether the operators are typed in uppercase or lowercase does not affect the search. Please note, however, that if an operator appears in a title you are searching for, such as The Road Not Taken, it will still be interpreted as a search operator. This may lead to irrelevant results. If you are searching for a title that contains a search operator, enclose the title in quotation marks.

AND. Use the AND search operator to retrieve documents that contain both of the specified search terms. This operator places no condition on where the terms are found in relation to one another; however, both terms have to appear somewhere in the field you are searching. For example, a full text search for apples AND bananas will find any document that contains mention both of apples and bananas.

OR. Use the OR search operator to retrieve documents that contain one or both specified search terms. This operator places no condition on where the terms are found in relation to one another; however, one or both terms must appear somewhere in the field you are searching. For example, a full text search for apples OR bananas will find documents that mention apples, documents that mention bananas, and documents that mention both types of fruit.

NOT. Use the NOT search operator to retrieve documents that do not contain the specified term. For example, a full text search for apples NOT bananas will find essays that mention apples but not bananas.

PARENTHESES. The operators described above each operate on either simple terms (words or phrases) or a more complex query delimited by parentheses ( ). Parentheses allow you to construct very powerful queries. For example:

"ancient Rome" AND ((caesar or antony AND cleopatra) OR tiberius)
("enlighten*" OR ("philosophy" AND religion)) AND (1751 OR eighteenth century)

Boolean operators are applied in the order in which they appear. Therefore, the following searches are equivalent:

apples AND bananas OR oranges
(apples AND bananas) OR oranges

The proximity operators W (within) and N (next to) may be used to refine your search:

  • The W operator will find documents containing the specified words in the specified order within the number of words you indicate. For example, old w4 sea finds documents that contain the word old within four words of the word sea, and old must precede sea.
  • The N operator locates documents containing the words you specify within the number of words you specify, but the words can be in any order. For example, apples N4 bananas finds documents that contain the words apples and bananas within four words of each other, regardless of their order (that is, bananas could precede or follow apples).

Field Length
The length of any given field is not limited to the window you see on the screen. As a search term or terms is keyed, the text will continue to scroll to the left, so that you can see the search expression as it is being keyed.

Because the search engine does not recognize stopwords, search terms must be included in quotes or you can drop the stopword from the title or phrase.

For example, when searching for a title containing the word "to":

Enclose the phrase in quotations marks. The search will work on the exact phrase (example: "Farewell to Arms").

Omit the word "to" from the search (example: A Farewell to Arms would be entered as Farewell Arms).

Stopwords include the following: a, an, and, but, etc, for, from, if, in, into, is, it, its, of, on, or, that, the, to, with.