Tutorial: The Search Engine

lanifiel
August 2nd, 2004, 8:50 am
Greetings and salutations!

I thought that it would be good to have a short tutorial on how to use the search feature, in order to try and help people work their way through it. I will be using advice from some of our more prominent members who have learned the hard way of what to do

First things first, when searching for specific threads it is always best to use the advanced search (http://www.cosforums.com/search.php?) feature, which is located in the drop down of the search menu in the tool bar at the top of every page (its got a little arrow next to it ). Doing this takes you to a dedicated search page which will give you the option of choosing whether to search all posts or simply the title. Needless to say that when you're searching for a specific thread it's always best to search for the title alone.

Now this takes us to step two

When you enter a phrase the search engine will look for all the words you enter. That being said, its always best to use as few words as possible and leave out linking words such as "and, but, a, the, etc". This means that what you want to use is KEYWORDS. I cannot stress this enough. Lets use an example, say you're looking for a thread on the esteemed Minister of Magic Fudge (mmmm fudge... ). Instead of entering "minister of magic fudge" just enter "minister". As you can see (http://www.cosforums.com/search.php?searchid=2698691) this gives us only threads that have the word "minister" in its title, thus it narrows your search down to things you, hopefully, want to read.

Occasionally words are misspelled in an existing thread title (or the word has more than one spelling option such as "favorite" and "favourite"), so it's often best to only search for the first four letters and add an asterisk (favo* will yield threads with either version of the word).

Suppose I only want to look for threads about both Harry and Voldemort. I would type in the keyword box: harry AND vold* (or even: harr* AND vold*). If that shows too many entries, I can use: harr* AND vold* AND godr* (to look for threads discussing Harry, Voldemort and Godric's Hollow, or Godric Gryffindor or Godric's sword...). The search can be narrowed by rejecting words, too: harry AND vold* NOT worm*, if I don't want threads about Harry, Voldemort and Wormtail to show up.

It can speed up a search if there is more than one possible keyword, too. Suppose I want threads about the divination teacher. I can search: trel* OR siby* OR sybi* OR divi* OR teac* and have threads that mention any of those keywords (trelawney, sibyll, sybill, divination, teacher--though I would also get divining, teaching, trelawny, teach, divide, etc.).

The Boolean terms are: *, AND, OR and NOT (the one time you need to use all caps!). To have titles be your main search choice: Go to the advanced search screen. Select "titles only". (Don't type in any keywords.) Click on Save Search Preferences. That option will then automatically show up when you next use Advanced Search. You will only need your keyword(s) then! (And the option can be changed when you want to broaden your search.)

Ok, there you have it. A very small and tutorial on using the search feature. I hope this helps at least some of you :)

UPDATED WITH THANKS TO NICOLE! :)