Advanced Search Techniques

Combining Search Terms with Boolean Operators

Use Boolean operators between two search terms to broaden or narrow a search. Boolean operators are:

AND terms must be in the same record (narrows search)
OR either one or both terms must be in the same record (broadens search)
NOT the first term must be in the record, and the second term must not be in the record (narrows search)
XOR one or the other term must be in the record, but both terms cannot be in the same record (narrows search)


  • Alcohol AND Abuse$ (the $ sign is the truncation symbol)
  • Alcoholic OR Alcoholism
  • Dogs OR Cats
  • Alcohol NOT Drug
  • Narcotics XOR Alcohol
  • Pollution AND (Water OR Air)
  • (Adirondack$ OR Catskill$) AND (Parks OR Recreation)

Note: If Boolean operators or stop words are part of a search string, put them in double quotes. For example, to search the term not-for-profit, type "NOT FOR" PROFIT.

If two or more terms are typed in a text input box without using a Boolean operator between them, the system understands the positional operator SAME (the terms must be in the same field) and requires all the terms to appear in the same field.

Note: Boolean operators do not work in Browse search options, which match words with indexes character by character.

Combining Search Words With Positional Operators

Use positional operators between two words to retrieve records in which the two are in a particular physical relationship to each other. Positional operators are:

SAME  terms must be in the same field
WITH terms must be in the same sentence in a field
NEAR terms must be adjacent to one another, in any order
ADJ terms must be adjacent to one another and in the order in which they were entered


  • Revolution SAME Claims
  • Investigation WITH Informants
  • Delinquent$ NEAR Juvenile$

Note: If stop words or operator words are part of a search string, put them in double quotes. For example, to search for the phrase NEAR EAST, type "NEAR" ADJ EAST.

Grouping Search Terms with Parentheses

  • Use parentheses to refine a search by grouping words with operators, for exampl:
  • Education AND (Child OR Children OR Elementary OR Preschool OR Kindergarten)
  • (Spatial OR Geospatial) AND (Data OR Metadata)
  • Marine ADJ (Biology OR Ecology) AND (Arctic OR Antarctic OR Polar)

Search Limits

When doing a Power Search, search limits are at the bottom of the screen. When doing a Quick Search, the search can only be limited after results are retrieved. On a screen of brief records, scroll to the bottom of the screen to view the limits. Type in or select the limits, scroll up, and resubmit the search.

Limit a search by publication year, format, language, location, etc.

  • Format: Selecting the format SERIAL will limit a retrieval set to records for serials. (Caution: not all records have format information.)
  • Type: Ask staff for assistance if needed.
  • Language: Not all records can be searched by language.
  • Library
  • Location: Qualifying a search by location may be useful in certain instances. For example, to search for only New York State documents, limit the search by selecting:


    Note: For New York State Archives records, it is best to select ALL as the location, as materials could be in multiple locations.
  • Match on: The options are KEYWORDS, LEFT TO RIGHT or EXACT CONTENT. May be useful in Power Search.
  • Pubyear:
    Limiter Example
    > (greater than) > 1990
    < (less than) < 1950
    a range of years 1990-1994
    exact year 1999
  • Sort by: Determines the display order of search results. Results are not sorted if more than 100 records are retrieved.

Searching by OCLC number, ISSN, ISBN, or Archival series number

From the WORDS OR PHRASE option in the quick search

To search by OCLC number, type the 3-character prefix "OCM" in upper case followed by 8 digits of the OCLC number. Add 1 or more zeros between the "OCM" and the number if the number has fewer than 8 digits. Records with an ID number 100,000,000 or higher (items after April 2007) will get the prefix ocn (followed by the 9 digit number.) For example:

  • ocm01553347
  • ocm29750123
  • ocn123456789

To search by ISSN, type the number exactly. For example:

  • 0366-5313

To search by ISBN, type the number without hyphens. For example:

  • 0913582271

To search by Archives series number, type the number and then be sure to select New York State Archives for the LIBRARY. For example:

  • 12590

To search by MARC tags, use the { } brackets. For example:

  • hudson{651}
  • harcourt, brace {260}
Last Updated: April 22, 2014