Basic Search

Case, character masking, and truncation

All searches are case insensitive, i.e., capital letters make no difference.

The catalog offers two "wild card" operators to compensate for word inflection. The question mark (?) will match any single character. For example, a search for wom?n will retrieve the word woman or the word women. 17?? will match any date in the 1700's. The dollar sign ($) will match any number of characters (including zero). Thus a search for pastor$ will match any word that starts with those six letters, including pastor, pastors, pastorate, pastoral, etc. It is also possible to embed the dollar sign within a word. For example, a search for lab$r will match labor or labour (the British spelling).

The wild card operators generally produce a broader, more comprehensive search. This is often helpful. But you must be cautious; it is easy to match word forms you do not want to retrieve. For example, lab$r, intended to match labor or labour, also matches Labrador. Likewise, Rom$, intended to match Rome or Roman or Romans, also matches Romance. Think before you use ? or $.

Logical operators: and, or, not

Use the familiar logical operators 'and' and 'or' and 'not' to target your search. They function just as you would expect.

Operator Search Example Result
and a and b
galatians and law
Venn diagram of A and B
or a or b
law or covenant
Venn diagram of A or B
not a not b
spirit not holy
Venn diagram of A not B
parentheses
for grouping
and nesting
a and ( b or c )
God and ( grace or mercy )
Venn diagram of A and (B or C)

The and operator

The and operator combines terms. For example, . . .

mormon$ and polygam$ subject

retrieves only records which contain both mormon$ and polygam$. The and operator narrows a search to something more specific. Note in this example we have used and with $ truncation to match word stems.

And sometimes produces undesired results. Let's say you are looking for material about how to help children who are angry with their parents. This search:

angry and child$ subject

could retrive material about any of the following (and much more).

  • children angry with parents
  • parents angry with children
  • children happy about reading the book The Angry Dragon

In the later cases, the words are not related as desired. This is called "false coordination". It results in a low precision search. A search for the phrase angry adj child$ would be more precise.

The or operator

The 'or' operator is normally used to enumerate synonyms. Thus . . .

grace or mercy subject

retrieves records which contain at least one of the search terms. The or operator broadens a search.

The not operator

The not operator excludes. A not B will retrieve records that have A but do not have B. For example:

martin luther not king subject

matches Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism, but excludes Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader. Don't use the not operator unless you must. It is easy to accidently exclude valuable material when you use not.

Grouping with Parentheses

Parentheses may be used to group terms into sets and subsets. Here we search for information on law or covenant in the books of Romans or Galatians.

(law or covenant ) and (Romans or Galatians ) subject

Parentheses may be nested to 10 levels. For example, a form like >> ( A or B ) and (C or (D and (E or F) ) ) is permitted. This is nested to 3 levels as you can see from the three parentheses at the right hand end.

Proximity operators:same, near, adj

While the logical operators allow you to combine terms using logical set operations based on whether given words are in the given categories (like author or subject), proximity operators allow you to specify the distance between words as well.

The same operator

BIBLOS recognizes a proximity operator called same which enables you to search for words which are in the same field. In a same search, the target words can occur in any order and may be any distance apart as long as they are in the same field. This flexibility in word order and in distance is usually very helpful. For example, the search . . .

Mormon$ same polygam$ title

will match all of the following titles: >> Mormon Polygamy >> Polygamous Mormons >> Polygamy as a Problem in Early Mormon Utah and any other work which contains both words (Mormon and polygamy) in the same title field.

Don't confuse same with and. The same operator does not retrieve items which have the target words in different fields, even if the different fields are of the same "kind". For example, the search

Mary and Smith author

will retrieve a book co-authored by the two people >> Author: Smith, John >> Author: Jones, Mary because both words (Mary and smith) are author words. But a same field search will not match this book because Mary is not in the same author field that Smith is in.

Although the same operator is the most useful search operator, you should be aware it sometimes produces undesired results. Thus the search

new same covenant keyword

will retrieve many useful items but also some irrelevant items like the title >> New Testament Teaching about the Mosaic Covenant. The words 'new' and 'covenant' are not related to each other in the desired way. This is another example of "false coordination."

The same operator is the default operator. If you enter a multi-word string without specifying an operator between words, then the computer assumes you mean the same operator. Thus the search

Mary Jones author

is identical to . . .

Mary same Jones author

These two searches will yield identical results. BIBLOS will search for "Mary" and "Jones" in the same field.

The near operator

The near operator is designed to reduce the problem of false coordination. It enables you to search for words a specified distance apart (but still in the same field). For example,

Puritan near American title

retrieves records with those two words next to each other in any word order. So it matches both of the following: >> Studies in Puritan American Spirituality >> The Last American Puritan

The near operator allows high precision searches. To relax the precision, specify how far apart the words may be. For example, . . .

spirit near4 filled everything

requires spirit and filled be within 4 words of each other. It matches both of the following: >> Spirit filled (one apart) >> filled with the Holy Spirit (four apart).

The adj operator

Like the near operator, the adj operator is used to search for words a specified distance apart, but adj also specifies word order. For example . . .

big adj dog everything

will match that exact phrase, i.e., those two words, immediately adjacent to each other, in that order. Likewise,

big adj3 dog everything

requires the word "big" appear within three words of "dog" and the words must appear in that order. It matches >> big brown dog (two words apart) as well as >> big brown furry dog (three words apart).

Many databases and Internet search engines allow you to specify an exact phrase (that is, an exact match of adjacent words in a specific word order) in quotations marks. For example, you might try "big dog" to match that phrase. Double quotes will not work that way in BIBLOS. You should use adj for exact phrases. Technically, you can specify a phrase in BIBLOS by enclosing the phrase in single quote marks. Thus 'new covenant' = new adj covenant. But we advise you to avoid single quotes. Due to a bug in the parser, single quotes are disregarded if your search statement includes reserved words (and, or, not, near, adj, same, with). For example, you would expect 'They Have Not Heard' to equal that exact phrase, but it does not. Rather,

'They Have Not Heard' title

is parsed as if you had typed it with no quote marks.

They Have Not Heard title

Because NOT is an operator, the bug just ignores the quotes.

Proximity operators are more precise than logical operators, and adj is the most precise of all, but undesired results are still possible with proximity operators. For example . . .

day adj care title

matches the title >> A Guide for Day-to-Day Care of Your Cat. Cat care is not what we meant by day care. (Yes, this is a real book title, but no, we do not own it. Check WorldCat if you want full info about it.)

And verses positional operators

Logical and is usually less precise but more comprehensive than proximity operators like near and same. This is both good and bad depending on whether you are retrieving too much or too little. In this search for the new age movement, the and operator is too broad.

Search Terms Category # Found
May 2005
new and age subject 438
new age subject 367
new adj age subject 215
( new and age ) not ( new adj age ) subject 223

The last search lists the irrelevant items a "new and age" search retrieves.

On the other hand, it is sometimes necessary to use the broader and operator in order to get what you need. For example,

Calvin same predestination subject

retrieves very little, but

Calvin and predestination keyword

retrieves several useful items.

More about Grouping and Operator Precedence

Logical operators may also be combined with proximity operators. For example, this search:

pray$ near4 (group$ or meeting$) subject

retrieves items matching many phrases including the following.

  • prayer group(s)
  • group prayer(s)
  • prayer meeting(s)
  • praying in a group
  • meeting for prayer

Search expressions are evaluated from left to right. But precedence is given as follows:

  1. ( ), that is, portions in parentheses, innermost first
  2. near, adj
  3. with
  4. same
  5. and, not
  6. or, xor

So the following are equivalent; in both cases bark combines with furry animal but does not combine with brown dog.

  • brown dog or furry animal and bark
  • (brown same dog) or ((furry same animal) and bark)

Field Qualification

If you are using the "everything" category, then other categories can be designated by codes placed in curly braces at the end of a search term. But curly braces can be used ONLY in the "Everything" category.

swindoll{au} and grace awakening{ti} everything

The following category/field-group codes may be useful to you.

category/meaning code example(s)
author (personal or corporate) {au} Martin Luther{au}
Society of Biblical Literature{au}
title (any title including series) {ti} Institutes of the Christian Religion{ti}
series title {se} Supplements to Vetus Testamentum{se}
descriptor (Official standardized
Library of Congress subject terms)
{de} church history 16th century{de}
topic (LCSH descriptors + titles + abstracts) {to} parachurch{to}
book of bible {630} mark{630}
mark xiii{630}

Summary table of Operators

The appendix contains a convenient summary table of all operators. You may want to print that page.

Advance to next chapter in tutorial.