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CSISS Search Engine Help

Forming a query

CSISS's search can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Usually you will just need to enter a few words that best describe that which you are trying to locate. To perform more complicated searches you might use any combination of logic operators, special pattern matchers, concept expansion, or proximity operations.

Example: geographic information system

Query Rules of Thumb

If you get too many junk results, try:

  1. Add some more words to your query.
  2. Decrease the range of the Proximity control.
  3. Change the Word Forms control to Exact.
  4. Look at the Match Info and see why they are showing up.
  5. Use the Exclusion Operator (-) to remove unwanted terms.
  6. If you are searching for a phrase, hyphenate the words together.

If you don't get any answers, or just too few:

  1. Remove some more words to your query.
  2. Examine your spelling.
  3. Increase the scope of the Proximity control.
  4. It just might not be there?

Overview of query abilities

Controlling proximity:
Mastering the usage of proximity gives the ability to locate answers with greater precision. The Site Search input form gives you several options to control the search proximity:

  • line All query terms must occur on the same line
  • sentence Query items should all reside within the same sentence
  • paragraph Within the same paragraph or text block
  • page (default) All items must occur within same HTML document

Ranking Factors
The ranking algorithm takes into consideration relative word ordering, word proximity, database frequency, document frequency, and position in text. The relative importance of these factors in computing the quality of a hit can be altered under RANKING FACTORS on the Options page.

Keywords Phrases and Wild-cards:

To locate words, just type them in as you would in a word processor. Letter cases will be ignored. The wild-card character * (asterisk) may be used to match just the prefix of a word or to ignore the middle of something. To locate a number of adjacent words in a specific order, surround them with " (double quotation) characters. Putting a - (hyphen) between words will also force order and one word proximity.

Query Locates
john john, John
"john public" John Public
web-browser Web browser, web-browser
John*Public John Q. Public, John Public
456*a*def 1-23456-789-ABCDEF
activate activate, activation, activated... (see Word Forms)

Applying Search Logic

The CSISS search engine uses set logic for text queries. Set logic is easier to use and provides more abilities than boolean. The examples below make reference to single keywords, but keep in mind that each keyword can represent an entire list of things or any of the special pattern matchers.

Sets (or lists) of things are specified by placing the elements within parenthesis, separated by commas.
Example: (bob,joe,sam,sue) . In the examples below, you could replace any of the keywords with a list like this.

The default behavior of the search is to locate an intersection (or 'AND') of every element within a query. This means that the query; "microsoft bob interface" is the equivalent to the boolean query: "microsoft AND bob AND interface"

  • '-' (without)
    The '-'(minus) is the most commonly used logic symbol. It means the answer should EXCLUDE references to that item.
  • '+' (mandatory)
    The '+'(plus) symbol in front of a search item means that the answer MUST INCLUDE that item. This is generally used in conjunction with the permutation operation.
  • '@N' (permute)
    The '@' followed by a number indicates how many intersections to locate of the terms in your query. This may be confusing at first, but it is very powerful.

Notes: Only the '+' and '-' operations are valid with a relevance rank search.

Query Finds
bob sam joe Bob with Sam and Joe (within the selected proximity)
bob sam -joe Bob with Sam without Joe
bob sam joe @1 Bob with Sam, or, Bob with Joe, or, Joe with Sam
A B C D @1 AB or AC or AD or BC or BD or CD
+A B C D @1 ABC or ABD or ACD
A B C -D @1 ( AB or AC or BC ) without D

Invoking Thesaurus Expansion

The CSISS search engine has a vocabulary of over 250,000 word and phrase associations. Each entry is generally classifiable by either its meaning or part of speech.

To expand the meaning of a word or phrase within your query, precede it with a ~ (tilde) character.

Natural Language Query

You may enter a query in the form of a sentence or question. The software will automatically identify the important words and phrases within your query and remove the "noise words".


User query: What is the state of the art in Geographical Information Systems?
Actual search: state of the art AND Geographical AND Information

Using word forms

The Word forms options give you control over how many variations of your query terms will be sought in your search.

  • Exact: (default) Only exact matches will be allowed.
  • Plural & posessives: Plural and possessive forms will be found. (s, es, 's)
  • Any word forms: As many word forms as can be derived will be located.


    EXACT : president
    PLURAL: (above) + presidents president's
    ANY   : (above) + presidential presidency preside presides presiding presided

    EXACT : tight
    PLURAL: (above) + tights
    ANY   : (above) + tightly tightening tightened tighter tightest

    EXACT : programs 
    PLURAL: (above) + programs program's
    ANY   : (above) + programming programmatic programmed programmer programmable 

This is called morpheme processing, and it is generally smarter than a traditional "stemming" algorithm. It does not truncate the end of a word, it actually checks to see if it could be a valid form of the search term.

Notes: Thesaurus terms are also treated in the same manner. Words smaller than 4-5 characters will not be processed.

Controlling proximity

These options give you control over the region in which a match must be found.

  • line: match terms must be located within the same line.
  • sentence: all terms within the same sentence.
  • paragraph: match terms must be located within the same paragraph
  • page: (default) all terms within the same document.

In all cases the best possible matches for your query are located and ordered by decreasing quality. A bar graph is produced to indicate the quality of each answer.

Interpreting search results

When a query is submitted it will come back with another query form and up to 10 matching documents. If there are more than 10 answers, a link at the top and bottom of the list will allow you to view the next 10 in sequence.

The input form at the top allows you further tailor your query to home-in on the desired answers, or to submit a completely new query without having to navigate back to the original input form.

Each answer in the result set will have a format similar to the following:
1: CSISS Mission Statement
CSISS, the Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science, is funded by the National Science Foundation under its program of support for infrastructure in the social and behavioral sciences. Its programs focus on the methods, tools, techniques, software, data access, and other services needed to promote and facilitate a novel and integrating approach to social science. The CSISS mission recognizes the growing significance of space, spatiality, location, and place in social science research. It seeks to develop unrestricted access to ...
Size: 1K
Depth: 1
Find Similar
Linked Sites

Note: The look and feel described here is the standard search interface. The interface may have been customized by the web site administrator.

The components of each result are:

  • Result number
  • Document title ( clicking on this will take you to the original document )
  • Abstract (The first few hundred characters of the document )
  • Size ( How big is the original document )
  • Depth ( How many clicks from the top of the site )
  • Find Similar ( Find other documents similar to this one )
  • Linked Sites ( List pages that link to this one )

Finding similar documents

The Find Similar link will find documents that are similar to the corresponding result. It does this by reading the original document to ascertain its main subject matter, and then conducting a relevance ranked search for those subjects.

Result documents are ordered from best to worst match. The bargraph display will indicate the overall quality of the match.

Note:The document you click on may not be ranked as the best match. This is because other documents may contain more information about the overall subject matter than the original.

Showing linked sites

Often times it is difficult to navigate using a search engine because there is no back-link present on the matching document. The Linked Sites link solves this. This link will show other documents that contain hyperlinks to the one you click on. In other words, it is an automated back button.

Note: Only some of the CSISS engines offer this feature.

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Search Engines: Eric White