The search techniques outlined in Search help serve the needs of the vast majority of user searches. However if you do have complex searching needs, the search box in simple search is more powerful than its simplicity suggests. You can construct quite complex searches that are highly specific about what is being searched.

Specifying fields to be searched

You can specify which fields you want to be searched using a simple syntax of field name plus colon plus search term, e.g. country:Russia. Note that there must be no space between the colon and the term.

For example, if you want to find any mention at all of Argentina (instead of articles which have been keyworded Argentina), you could specify content:Argentina.

Here is a list of the field names you can use in this way:

  • content: term appears anywhere in the text of the piece? E.g. content:Russia
  • titling: term appears anywhere in the titling of the piece - that is, the main title areas such as headline, short summary, etc? E.g. titling:economy
  • country: has the piece been keyworded to this country? E.g. country:Russia
  • primarycountry: is the piece about this country? E.g. primarycountry:Russia
  • titlingcountry: is this country the entire subject of this piece? E.g. primarycountry:Russia
  • topic: has the piece been keyworded to this topic (from our list of topics)? E.g. topic:oil
  • primarytopic: is the piece about this topic (from our list of topics)? E.g. primarytopic:oil

If you use this syntax, then terms with more than one word must be treated as phrases and so enclosed in double quotes, so primarycountry:"United Kingdom" not primarycountry:United Kingdom

Operators

Boolean AND

For example, finding articles on China AND Russia. The search engine assumes this is what you want unless you are using multiple clauses (see below). However, you can be explicit about it if you want. for one term OR another term, simply enclose in brackets, so (France China) searches for results on France OR China. See multiple clauses below.

Boolean OR

To search for one term OR another term, simply enclose in brackets, so (France China) searches for results on France OR China. See multiple clauses below.

Negation

Prefix with a minus sign to exclude a search term, so Ukraine -Russia is articles about Ukraine that are not about Russia.

Proximity

Separate terms with NEAR to find terms close to one another. Use only with content: or titling: fields (see above). For example, content:economic NEAR content:policy finds articles where the term economic or economy is close to the term policy or politics.

Multiple search clauses

It's possible to build very complex searches out of all the ingredients above using brackets.

This is best demonstrated with some examples:

  • (primarycountry:Russia primarycountry:China) AND (primarytopic:oil primarytopic:gas) - articles primarily about Russia or China AND oil or gas
  • (country:"United Kingdom" country:Ireland) AND (content:economy NEAR content:policy) - articles concerning the UK or Ireland which have the words economy and policy close together in the content

You can nest brackets and search terms as much as you like.

Note that once you introduce brackets, OR will be assumed between terms rather than AND - you will need to be explicit about AND when you want it.