U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission
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U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Search Overview

The SEC search function behaves much like other popular internet search engines. Simply enter words and phrases to get search results based on your entry. For more targeted results, the following instructions may prove useful. Some general pointers:

  • Letter case is ignored — STOCK returns the same results as stock and Stock.
  • Specific sections of the website can be searched by making a selection from the "Search by section" drop-down menu.
  • Display results by rank or date by selecting from the "Sort by rank or date" drop-down menu.

Boolean Operators

You can use the Boolean operators and, or or not in searching. Without these Boolean operators it is assumed you're and'ing the words together. The operators are not case sensitive. These three searches return the same results:

  • securities exchange
  • exchange securities
  • securities AND exchange

and — retrieves documents that contain both phrases (e.g., "insider trading" AND "regulation fd").

or — retrieves documents containing either terms or phrases, but not necessarily in the same document (e.g., "insider trading" OR "regulation fd").

not — inverts the results of a search and retrieves all the documents that do not contain the term or phrase (e.g., "insider trading" NOT "regulation fd").

Phrase Searching

Search for a phrase by enclosing your search terms in double quotes. For example "insider trading" searches for the exact phrase whereas insider trading returns documents containing both words but not necessarily together as a phrase. Do not use boolean search terms inside a phrase. The boolean operator will be considered part of the phrase.


Search terms are automatically expanded and variant forms of the root word are searched. For example, a search for commission will expand to include commissions, commissioner, commissioners, and commissioning.

Truncation (wildcards)

Truncation is similar to stemming; however, it gives the user a measure of control in determining where the stem begins. Use the wildcard symbol * at the end of a search term to expand your results (e.g., commission*).

A word of caution: Using a wildcard character in combination with the search engine's inherent stemming can produce unexpected results. All search terms are stemmed, even those with a wildcard character appended to them. So, a search for running* initially stems to run. This means running* will also find runway. By contrast, however, a search for runn* will not find running, as you might expect, because running stems to run in the index not runn.

Order of Evaluation

In general, the order of evaluation is not important. Internally, the search terms are processed from left to right. Parentheses can be used to group searches together, effectively changing the order of evaluation. For example, these three searches return the same results:

  • securities not exchange commission
  • not exchange securities commission
  • commission securities not exchange

But these two do not return the same results:

  • securities not exchange commission
  • securities not (exchange commission)

The first finds all documents that contain both securities and commission, but do not contain exchange. The second finds all that contain securities, and contain either exchange or commission, but not both.

It is often helpful in understanding searches to use the boolean terms and parenthesis. So the above two become:

  • securities AND (not exchange) AND commission
  • securities AND (not (exchange AND commission))

These four examples all return the same results:

  • acme not fund and investment
  • (acme) AND (NOT fund) AND (investment)
  • acme not fund investment
  • investment and acme and not fund

Looking at the the first three searches, the search finds all the documents with "acme". Then it finds all documents that do not contain "fund". Those two lists are then combined with the boolean AND operator resulting with a list of documents that include "acme" but not "fund". Finally, that list is ANDed with the list of documents that contain "investment" resulting.

However it is always possible to force the order of evaluation by using parenthesis. For example:

  • acme not (fund and investment)

retrieves files with "acme" that do not contain both words "fund" and "investment".



Modified: 05/26/2004