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 Search Concepts

(Watch the video here)

Almost all online historic newspaper collections have one thing in common – they have a basic search capability and an advanced search feature. It is usually best to almost always use the advanced feature since it provides so many different ways to hone in on the articles that you seek. The Community History Archive software capabilities add a third type – Keyword Searches.

Basic Search

Basic searches lure you into entering a surname or full name and hoping for the best, and that’s OK.  Let’s look at the basic search capability:

Here you can enter a search string in the search bar (a “search string” is a sequence of characters or words that you enter into the search box.) You can enter a Boolean Expression in the Search bar if you wish, as well as simply a string of words. Check out the article on Boolean Expressions if you don’t know what that is or want more detailed information about Booleans.

Don’t get me wrong – these basic searches are not bad. But if you wish to narrow down your search results, for example by date, or publication title, you should try Advanced Search (examples below).

Keyword Search

 

In the Search Portal Keyword Search function, which is available on the Search Results Page, you can enter a search string in the top search bar, or you can enter a name in the second box. You can enter a Boolean Expression in the top bar if you wish as well as simply a string of words. Check out the article on Boolean Expressions if you don’t know what that is or want more detailed information about Booleans.

Keyword Search provides the added capability to enter a date range in years, with a Start Year and End Year for the search.

Advanced Search

Advanced Searches have a variety of added ways to narrow your search results.  Here is a picture of the Search Portal’s Advanced Search capabilities:

In the middle after it says, “Find Pages With”, there are 4 boxes.  The first (“This exact word or phrase:”) is for what I call “phrase searching”.  Phrase searching is similar but DIFFERENT than the Boolean AND.  Our research example above of “John Smith” in double quotes, is an example of searching for a phrase.  It operates similarly to John AND Smith, yet is different.  HOWEVER – a phrase search implies that the words John and Smith are right next to each other in the text, while using a search criteria of John AND Smith, the words do not necessarily have to be next to each other on the page. There is a difference.

The second box, “All these words:” functions exactly like using the Boolean AND.  So here if you were looking for someone named Wilson who lived in Davenport, you would enter Wilson Davenport.  The AND is not necessary. Thus the search of the index would return to you results for pages that include the word Wilson and the word Davenport anywhere on the same page.

The third box, “Any of these words:” functions exactly like using the Boolean OR.  So here if you were looking for someone named Wilson or someone named Willson (see the spelling difference?), you would enter Wilson Willson.  The OR is not necessary. Thus, the search of the index would return to you results for pages that include the word Wilson and pages that have the word Willson.  They do not have to be on the same page.

The fourth box, “None of these words:” functions exactly like using the Boolean NOT.  So here if you were looking for someone named Wilson who lived in Davenport, but was not named George, you would enter Wilson Davenport in the second box (All these words:), and George in the 4th box (None of these words:).  The NOT is not necessary. Thus, the search of the index would return to you results for pages that include the word Wilson and Davenport in them but would not return pages that have the word George in them.

There are various combinations that can be employed by entering a search string in multiple boxes.

So make use of Boolean searches in developing your search criteria. Whether you use AND or NOT to refine, or OR to provide more possibilities, these operators along with searching for phrases in double quotes will definitely improve the results that you get by leaps and bounds over just entering a name in a search box.

Look at these added features – name entry, Boolean operations, exact phrases, as well as selected city, publication title and date range.

  • You can enter a first name and last name as in the Basic Search.
  • You can enter an exact word or phrase, which operates exactly as if you put double quotes (“) around the search string.
  • You can enter a string of words in the “All these words” box, which operates the same as a Boolean AND. That means every word in your search string must be on the newspaper page.
  • You can enter a string of words in the “Any of these words” box, which operates the same as a Boolean OR. This means that any of the words can be on the newspaper page.
  • You can enter a string of words in the “None of these words” box, which operates the same as a Boolean NOT. This means that none of the words are on the newspaper page. Let’s use the example where you are seeking articles about a man named “John Dulles” but who is NOT the former Secretary of State “John Foster Dulles”. In this case, you would put the word “Foster” in the “None of these words” box.

The moral of this story is to use the Advanced Search feature whenever you can.  This is especially true if your target person has a common name. A simple message for sure, but if heeded will provide you with more successful search results.

from: http://www.advantage-companies.com/preservation/preservation-resources/concepts/search-concepts/


 Browse Concepts

(Watch video here)

In the “old” days, all you could do is browse through newspapers, either by flipping through original newsprint one page at a time or by scanning through microfilm copies, also one page at a time. And you can still (and should) do that, since only a small percentage of historical newspapers have been digitized.

Some online sites are browse only and some (such as the Community History Archive) allow you to browse and search as well.

Browse is sometimes a very effective way to find articles that the OCR process did not pick up correctly.  What that means is that the index created by the OCR process does not match the intended letters from the original scanned copy, so browsing may be your ONLY way to find an article. This is very important to know.  More on this a little later in this article.

How the Community History Archive Allows You to Browse

Here is how the Community History Archive presents the two Browse options, available from the Home Page:

 

To Browse by Title, you simply choose the title of the publication that you are interested in browsing through. After you click on the title, you are presented with every page available in the database, sorted by date and page number.  You then can click on your desired page and date and browse.

The second option available from the Home Page is to Browse by Year:browse by year

To Browse by Year, you simply choose your desired year.  You will be presented with the results for only those pages and titles that are in the database for that year. Also, you will be presented with a selection of months of publication for that title as well as the days of publication for that title. (Images not shown here). You can combine the Browse by Title and Browse by Year after you select the desired title.

General Browse Concepts

Many online collections like the Community History Archive have a browse as well as a search feature.  As stated previously, because the index may not reflect the original letters and words in the source newspaper, you may not be able to find articles of interest just by searching.

You can “smart browse” however. What I mean by this is that many newspapers tended to have the same sections on the same page number from daily edition to daily edition for a number of years.

For example, obituaries may have generally been on Page 16. So, if you know the death date, you can look at Page 16 in the newspaper for the death date and the same page for a week or two after the death date. I have found many obituaries this way, when the OCR created index did not pick up the name correctly. They may not always be on the same page forever as newspapers expanded or contracted in the number of page published for every issue.

Other examples:

  • National and/or state news might be on page 1 and 2, and local news on page 3
  • Birth and marriage licenses – generally found in the vitals section – usually on the same page from edition to edition
  • Local human interest news about residents in the area
  • Engagements and marriage announcements often found in the Society or Women’s sections
  • Legal notices, real estate transactions, etc. are often on the same page for a number of years.
  • and many more.

The moral is that because the same sections tended to be on the same page number – if you have an idea of the date of the event ahead of time, you can browse from edition to edition using that event date as a starting point.  You would be amazed at what you can find if you Browse rather than always relying on searching and the search index.

Browsing is definitely worth it and may be your only option.  Do not discount this important feature, whether online or offline. Make it part of your research repertoire.  You will be glad you did.

From: http://www.advantage-companies.com/preservation/preservation-resources/concepts/browse-concepts/

 

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