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This search function uses TOPIC software from Verity, Inc. The following document, derived from their Users Guide, provides generic information on how to create search queries in TOPIC.

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Writing a query is a way to ask a question about a subject. The way you ask questions in the form of queries determines which documents will be returned. The simplest way is to enter words that describe the subject you are interested in. The information below introduces how to write queries using Verity Topic search features, and covers:

Basic Queries

You can write a basic query using words and phrases, separated by commas. If you want to see documents about using text editors to create Web documents, you can start with a single-word query, such as:

editor

In this case, your query finds all the documents that include the word "editor." However, this search would include not only documents about text editors, but also documents about people who are editors. (You don't have to specify the plural form, because a basic search includes stemmed variations, such as "editors.") Documents about the Web that did not include the word "editor" would not be retrieved.

To ask for more specific results, you could enter several words or phrases, separated by commas, that describe the subject more precisely, such as:

text editor, document, web

In this case, your query finds documents that contain "text editor," "document," or "Web." (Case doesn't matter in queries: a word entered in lower case will match words in upper case, lower case, or mixed case.) The most relevant documents, such as those that discuss creating HTML documents for the Web using a text editor, will appear at the top of the results list.

Using Operators

You can make your queries more specific by combining the words you used for basic queries with operators. Operators are special words that are used to indicate logical relationships between the descriptive terms that make up your query.

Basic Operators

Here are basic operators that you can specify as part of queries.

Operator
Description
AND
Finds documents containing both words it joins.
OR
Finds documents containing either of the words it joins.
NOT
Finds documents containing the word preceding it and excludes documents containing the word that follows it.
<NEAR>
Finds documents containing words that are in the same general area, but may or may not be adjacent.
<PHRASE>
Finds documents containing phrases, words that are adjacent to each other.
, (comma)
Finds documents containing at least one of the words specified, ranking them using "the more, the better" approach, so documents with the most evidence of the words searched for are given the highest rank.

NOTE: AND, OR, and NOT are treated as operators by default, and do not require brackets. If you want to use them as literal words, place them in double quotes. All other operators must be placed within brackets.

More About Operators

Here are some additional operators that you can specify as part of queries.

Operator
Description
?
Wildcard operator that represents any one character. You can use a ? to specify the first letter of a word.
*
Wildcard operator that represents one or more characters.You cannot use a * to specify the first letter of a word.
' (single quotes)
Placing a word in single quotation marks finds stemmed variations of the word. Example: the query 'edit' finds "edited," "editing," and "edition."
" (double quotes)
Placing a word in double quotation marks finds exact matches only, excluding stemmed variations of the word. Example: the query "edit" matches the word "edit" only, not the words "edited," "editing," or "edition."
<THESAURUS>
Thesaurus operator that searches for documents containing words that are synonyms for the word you specify. Example: the query <THESAURUS> altitude retrieves documents that include the words "height" and "elevation," as well as "altitude."

Query Examples

Using these examples, you can write queries that will return exactly the information you want.

Finding Words

Most queries can be written by entering the words and phrases you're interested in, separated by commas. If you were looking for information about the Web or about using laptop computers, you could enter:

web, laptop computers

This query returns documents that contain the terms "Web" (case doesn't matter in queries), "laptop computers," or both. Your results list will display a ranked list of documents, with the most relevant documents at the top of the list.

Finding Phrases

Perhaps you want to see documents that refer to a series of words that occur in a specific order, such as "Web publishing with HTML". You could enter the whole phrase:

web publishing with html

This query returns only documents that contain all of these words in the exact sequence you specified, including stemmed variations of the search terms.

Finding a Specific Subject

The simple query returned some documents about the Web, some documents about laptop computers, and some about both subjects. If your real interest is in accessing the Web using a laptop computer, you can use the AND operator to be more specific. You could enter:

web AND laptop computers

This query returns only those documents that contain both "Web" and "laptop computers" in the same document, so this list will be shorter than the results of the query written using commas. (You can enter AND in lower case and it will still be treated as an operator.)

AND is treated as an operator unless it is surrounded by quotation marks. So if you want to use the word "and" as part of a phrase, place it inside quotation marks. For example, to search for the phrase "addresses and URLs", you would enter:

addresses "and" URLs

Excluding Terms

You might want to specifically exclude certain documents from your results list. For example, you might want to see documents about most Web browsers, but you're not interested in Lynx. You could enter:

web browser NOT lynx

This query returns only documents referring to Web browsers that do not also mention Lynx. If a document includes both "Web browser" and "Lynx," it will be excluded.


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