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Making Queries

The Search Engine gives web users access to a sophisticated concept-based searching engine. But even though the search engine is advanced, users can form queries without using a complicated query language. This page will help you to choose the queries that will give you the best results.

Query Basics

A query is simply a description of an information need. Unlike Boolean systems that search for just those documents containing all the words in your query, the Search Engine will search for documents that are a best match for the words in your query. The Search Engine will also search for documents that are about the same concepts that your query describes, so sometimes the Search Engine will bring back articles that don't mention any of the words in your original query.

What this means is that your query -- the description of your information need -- can be as detailed as you like. Don't worry about providing too many words; the more words, the better. Additional words in your query will help the Search Engine figure out what concepts you're really interested in. On the other hand, the Search Engine will do a pretty good job of figuring out what documents are interesting to you even if your query is vague.

For example, let's say you're searching a web site for documents about customer support for the Widget2000 product you're using. A good starting point would be:

customer support for the Widget2000

If you have a question about a particular feature of the Widget2000, for example the Blurfl upgrade package, you might choose a query like:

customer support for the Blurfl upgrade package of the Widget2000

Even if there are no documents that are actually about the Blurfl upgrade, the Search Engine will still show you documents about Widget2000 customer support.

Advanced Query Tips

Here are some suggestions for getting the best results out of the Search Engine.

Only use words that are relevant to your query
If you're looking for documents about the Widget2000, don't enter a query like "Find me all documents about the Widget2000". The Search Engine considers all the words in your query to be part of your information need, so queries like the previous example will find all documents about finding all documents about the Widget2000, which may not be exactly what you want.

Specify multiple forms of the same phrases
The Search Engine distinguishes between hyphenated and un-hyphenated words. So, sometimes it might be necessary to explicitly say that you want both versions, for example "CDROM CD-ROM". The Search Engine will try to figure out that CDROM and CD-ROM are the same, but it never hurts to explicitly specify multiple forms.

Common words are ignored
The Search Engine doesn't index common words like a, and, or the. Consequently, those words in your query will be ignored. The Search Engine also ignores numbers; however, it can find strings that happen to contain a number, for example 3Com.