Refining a Search

It's easy to refine a query to get precisely the results you want. Here are some effective techniques to try:

Identify a phrase

Before: military records
After: "military records"

The before query is ambiguous. Is it looking for the home page containing the words "military" and "records." Identifying "military records" as a phrase eliminates the ambiguity. This is the most powerful query refinement technique. Add a discriminating word or a phrase.

Capitalize when appropriate

Before: president white house,
After: President White House,

These examples, when all lower case, have a variety of possible interpretations. For example, without capitalization, the words president, white, and house, could refer to the concept of presidents in general, the color white, and any house on the planet. Capitalization makes it more likely that results will relate to the US President, who resides in the White House.

Use a require or reject operator (+,-)

Before: Thomas, Jefferson, declaration
After: Thomas, +Jefferson -declaration

You can require that the word "Jefferson" be in the document by placing a plus sign before it. You can use the reject operator (the "minus" sign) so that no documents with the word "declaration" appear in the results document.

Use a field specifier

Before: genealogy
After: title: genealogy

If you are looking for a particular page that you know the title of, use the title: field specifier to search for the word or phrase in title of the page. See Special Searches for more information on field specifiers.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001
Telephone: 1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272