Skip to main content


Finding Aid Help

Constructing Searches

The search screens include options which allow the user to construct searches that are as broad or precise as necessary. It is possible to do "simple" searches on a single term or phrase and "Boolean" searches on up to three terms or phrases joined by the qualifiers AND, OR & NOT. In both the Simple and the Boolean interfaces, there are seven options by which a search can be restricted to particular parts of the encoded finding aid or to specially tagged information. The search options are: anywhere in finding aid, names, places, subjects, call number, collection title, repository. The option selected can affect the results achieved by the search.

  • The "anywhere in finding aid" option, which is the default, searches the entire text of the finding aid and is the broadest type of search.

  • The "names" option searches for personal, corporate and geographic names that have been explicitly tagged in the finding aid. In Bentley Library finding aids these terms have been tagged primarily in the "controlled access" section and in lists of significant correspondents included in the Additional Descriptive Data section of some finding aids. The tagged names represent only those which the processing archivist deemed most significant for a particular collection. Not every name mentioned in a finding aid has been tagged.

  • The "places" option searches only for geographic place names that have been specifically tagged . In Bentley Library finding aids, geographic place names have been tagged primarily in the "controlled access terms" section. The tagged terms were selected by the cataloger as the most significant terms for the particular collection.

  • The "subjects" option restricts the search to terms that have been specifically tagged as "subject terms" in the "controlled access term" section, as well as all terms tagged as names and places.

  • The "Call number" option provides a quick way to retrieve a specific finding aid if the library call number is known.

  • The "collection title" restricts the search to terms in the title of the collection or the name of the collection creator.

  • The "repository" option is included in anticipation of the eventual inclusion of finding aids from other repositories in the finding aids database.

As noted, most of the searchable name, place and subject terms are included in the "controlled access terms" section of the finding aid. The terms are formed according to Library of Congress Subject Headings, Library of Congress Name Authority File or other thesaurus or authority file. In Bentley Library finding aids the controlled access terms are assigned by a cataloger who has determined the collection includes significant material relating to the term. The "keywords in context" display will thus usually take you to the list of controlled access terms rather than to particular series or file titles in the contents list or sections of the narrative description. A result in the controlled access section simply means that somewhere in the collection there is material relevant to the name, subject or form and genre term.

back to top

Advanced Searches

The advanced search option allows users to search on up to three terms or phrases joined by the expressions AND, OR and NOT. The terms in a advanced search are entered into separate text boxes and are operated on from left to right. This means some care must be taken in formulating the search. For example, if you wanted to find collections with information about the cities of Ithaca or Syracuse during the civil war, the search should be Ithaca OR Syracuse AND civil War. The search engine will first search for all finding aids containing either the phrase "Ithaca" OR "Syracuse". It will then search the retrieved set for the phrase "civil war." The revised set will be retrieved, duplicates will be eliminated and the final results displayed.

back to top

Understanding Search Results

The results of a search are presented in several steps and give the user options for viewing the finding aid: a search results screen, a "keywords in context" view, an outline view, and a full text view. The system delivers portions or particular views of the finding aid as requested, rather than forcing the user to download the entire document.

The Search Results Screen

The initial results of a search will be presented as a list of all collections in which the search term(s) was found. The total number of collections retrieved is displayed at the top of the page. For large sets, results are displayed 25 at a time. The results list is arranged alphabetically by the name of the collection creator. The result for each collection retrieved includes the collection title and date span, collection creator, size of the collection, an abstract of the collection content, and the size of the on-line finding aid expressed in bytes.

Each result includes three links to different views of the finding aid: keyword in context, outline, and full text.

back to top

The Keywords in Context View

Clicking on the keywords in context link for a collection displays all of the found search terms in an excerpt of the sentence or phrase in which the term is contained. This may help the user determine the relevance of the particular occurrence of the search term The search term is in bold and higher levels of the finding aid structure are hyperlinks, allowing the user to unfold portions of the finding aid to view the larger context in which the term is contained.

back to top

The Outline View

This view presents an outline of the finding aid and the intellectual organization of the contents list in a sidebar navigator. The outline view is the most suitable view for browsing through a finding aid. The sidebar includes links to the main sections of the finding aid: Summary Information, Access and Use Information, Biography/History, Collection Scope and Content Note, Access Terms, Container List, and Additional Descriptive Information. The Contents List navigator includes links to the major subdivisions of the contents list, typically subgroups and series or series and subseries. Each of the links in the navigator initiates a new query and retrieves only that portion of the finding aid.

back to top

The Full Text View

This view retrieves the full text of the finding aid as a single document without the sidebar navigator. It includes a more formally formatted title page and the entire list of "Controlled Access Terms" will be displayed. For some collections this can run to a hundred or more entries. There are no internal navigation tools in the full text view. You must move though the finding aid with the scroll bar or page-up/page-down keys.

back to top

Navigating the Finding Aids

Each of the finding aid screens or views contains a set of navigation links at the top of each screen. As appropriate, there will be links to the search screen pages, the search results page, the keywords in context view, the outline view, and the full document text view. The sidebar navigator provides internal navigation within a finding aid. It lists the major sections of the finding aid and under the Contents List section provides links to the individual subgroups, series, and subseries. An up-arrow at the bottom of each page links to the top of the page.

back to top

Browser requirements

This web site has been optimized for viewing at a screen resolution of 1024x768 or higher, using the latest version of Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape, or Internet Explorer for the PC or Mac. It utilizes DLXS version 13 for displaying collection content.

back to top