Tips on Searching

Here are some general tips to help you build good searches:

Searching for Phrases: Phrases or names can be entered directly, since a space between two words requires that the words appear in that order, next to each other. So, the search term 'grateful dead' won't find stories with the words grateful and dead unless they are next to each other somewhere in the article.

Using Connectors: Remember to connect multiple search words or phrases with AND, OR or NOT. If you omit a connector, the system assumes you want the terms to appear as a phrase. For example, the search term 'grateful dead jerry garcia' requires the four terms to appear in that order in a row. The search term 'grateful dead AND jerry garcia' will return stories where both phrases appear anywhere in the story.

To Search For a Specific Story: To find a story which you know ran in the paper, simply type a few distinctive terms from the story into the search box, and use the AND connector to combine these terms. Suppose you wanted to find a story by Stephanie Simon which was headlined "Simpson Trial: Deja Vu With a Difference." No need to type in lots of words. The following search will do the trick:
'simon AND deja AND Simpson'

To Research a Topic

Selecting Search Terms: Identify the subject you are interested in. Try to narrow it as much as possible. For instance, are you interested generally in the environment? Or are you really trying to find out about global warming and ozone? The more specific you can be, the more on target the stories you retrieve will be. Choose search terms which a writer would have been likely to use in a story--avoid jargon and scientific names.

Using Our Index Terms: Many of the stories in the archives (but not all) are indexed by the staff of the Times' Editorial Library. The index terms assigned to a story can be found at the end of a story, labeled "Descriptors."

If you identify index terms which describe your topic, you can use these as search terms as shown below. Do NOT put a space between the expression "keywords" and the terms in parentheses. For example, to retrieve stories indexed with the term poverty, you would search:


For stories about childhood poverty, you could combine two index terms as follows:

keywords(children and poverty)

Note that the index terms for personal names are entered last name first, so to search for stories on Hillary Clinton, you would enter:

keywords(clinton hillary)

Some index terms are subdivided with dashes. Simply ignore the dashes and enter the terms as shown. Stories on executive pay are usually assigned the index term 'executives -- wages and salaries'.

To retrieve stories with this index term, search:

keywords(executives wages and salaries) 

Here are some tips which only apply in certain circumstances. Refer to them as needed.

Case: Case is ignored. Terms can be entered in all lowercase, all uppercase or mixed case.

Combining Connectors: Connectors in a search statement process in a defined order. Words connected by a space are searched first. Then the system searches for terms connected by OR, then AND and finally NOT. In resolving the search statement 'bill clinton or bob dole and nafta' the system searches first for the terms bill clinton and bob dole. Then stories with either bill clinton or bob dole are retrieved. These are checked to make sure they include the term nafta. Most of the time this order is appropriate and natural, and you won't need to think about how you combine connectors.

Date searching: To search for a specific date, select the appropriate time period from the date box and also include the text form of the date in the search box, e.g. December 31 1995 (don't include the comma).

Plurals and Possessives: The system automatically searches for the singular, plural and possessive forms of a word. Searching for aerosol will also retrieve stories containing aerosol's or aerosols. Irregular plurals such as child (children), foreign plurals and words ending in -us, -is, -ux or -ix, are not retrieved automatically. See Word Stemming below for information on how to search for these.

Punctuation: Periods, hyphens, apostrophes, and ampersands (see next entry) are searchable and can be included in your search statements. Other punctuation marks are ignored and should not be included when searching; if you try to use them, an error message will result. Simply drop the punctuation mark and retain the space.

'Input/output' becomes 'input output'.

ampersand (&): The system reserves this symbol for use as the AND connector. To search for expressions containing an ampersand, you must substitute a plus sign (+). For 'S&L', you would search 's+l'.

Reserved Words: The following words are used by the system in processing search statements. You may include these terms in your search, but you need to enclose them in quotation marks. The reserved words are:
And, but, byline, caption, column, copyright, correction, date, dateline, edition, headline, keywords, lead, length, not, or, page, publication, section, series, source, tag, text, to, type.

Stopwords: These are very common words (usually prepositions or articles) which have not been included in the index. It's okay to include them in your search as the system will just ignore them. But generally it's more efficient to avoid common terms which don't have any descriptive content. The stopwords are: after, also, an, as, be, because, before, between, by, for, from, ever, if, in, into, of other, out, since, such, than, that, the, there, these, this, those, under, upon, when, where, whether, which, with, within, without.

Word Stemming: Use the exclamation point (!) to search for irregular plurals or variant endings of a word stem.

Example: manag!

This retrieves stories which include any words with the stem manag plus any endings, such as manag-e, manag-er, manag-ing, or manag-ement, etc.

Viewing, Printing and Saving Stories

Stories are printed or saved to disk (captured or downloaded) the same way you save or print other pages from your browser. Here's one thing you should know:

Tables: Some of the stories contain tables. These were originally formatted in vertical columns. Because HTML story text is displayed in a proportional font, tables lose that formatting and wrap in a manner which makes them difficult to read. However, it is simple to see the tables as they were originally formatted. To view, print or save tables with columns retained, you need to access the source code (or HTML) of the story. Most browsers provide this capability. Using Netscape, for instance, you would click on View and select Page Source.

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