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Using the Search Function

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Using the Search Function
Tips for finding pages, phrases and documents in the Atlas database


The Atlas database contains over a thousand web pages of concept descriptions; several hundred web pages of teaching topics, advisory topics, and courses; and close to a thousand pdf and other documents of resource materials. The search function is able to locate pages, documents and word strings within these. This note provides tips for finding material efficiently.

The search bar appears at the top right of all pages on the Atlas. 

Search Overview: The Atlas’s search engine locates, usually in less than a second, documents and entries that contain words or word strings anywhere in the text from anywhere on the Atlas.

The All Sites search box, in the header section of all pages, uses the conventions that most internet search tools now employ:

  • terms separated by spaces results in an “All of these words (in any order, anywhere in the piece)” search
  • terms enclosed in quotation marks results in a “This exact phrase” (word string) search

Search returns can be sorted in two ways: “by Relevance” (default) and “by Modified Date.” If you want to see the most recently uploaded items, click on “View by Modified Date.”

Useful and Not Useful Search Return Titles: The search engine is powerful but, as in the case for most websites, produces many returns that are difficult to recognize and ultimately not useful. When you search for a term you may get several thousand returns (see search results for <capital> below). Only some are useful. The most useful are "Home" or "Pages" (which are sites and pages within the Atlas devoted to the search term) or "Pages - Default" (typically a site within the Atlas that contains a reference or a link to the searched term). Titles that are usually of no use - and often result in a "NOT AUTHORIZED" message when clicked - include "Permissions" "Recycle Bin" "Site Library and Lists" "Site Theme" "User Alerts."

Searching by File Type: If you want to search for pdf documents, add .pdf to the search term and the top-listed returns will be pdf documents. (If you want Word documents, add .doc or .docx. and for PowerPoint add .ppt.) For example, a search for <.pdf "ministerial accountability"> finds, in August 2014, 17 pdf documents with the term "ministerial accountability" in the text. You then open the document and use the find function in Adobe Reader (Ctrl-F) to find instances of the phrase ministerial accountability.

The Search by Relevance Algorithm: By default, the search engine returns results “by Relevance.” The highest relevance returns are those where the search term can be found in the names of entries of Concepts, Courses, and Study Reports. The returns with the next highest relevance are those where the search term matches a term in the document file name. After that, relevance is based on the number of times the search term is found in the body of a document. As noted above, to view these returns by Last Modified Date, click on “View by Modified Date.”

Advanced Search Button: The Advanced Search button offers four search selections: “All of these words,” “The exact phrase,” “Any of these words,” and “None of these words.” You can also narrow any search by Created Date, Last Modified Date (use format 31/08/2014) or file size (e.g., for files over 1MB enter 1000000).


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School of Public Policy and Governance