Search Help

How does the search engine work?

Most searches consist of a single word or list of words e.g.

  • jobs
  • application form
  • "DNA sequencing"

which you can type into the search box and get a list of results, with the most relevant content appearing higher in the list.

Things to note

  • In general, the search engine tries to find documents which contain all of the query words (implicit AND) but will also find "partially matching" pages, which contain only some of the words in the query.
  • Searches are case-insensitive i.e. "Nova Scotia" and "nova scotia" will be treated the same.
  • Words are any unbroken sequence of letters and/or numbers such as "Einstein", "1999" or "ENGN3410".
  • By default the search engine will ignore very common stop words such as "the", "a", "of" etc.
  • Use quote characters around your query words if you want to match the exact phrase e.g. "daylight saving time".

Accents and special characters

When searching for words containing accents and special characters, only results containing the accents and special characters will be returned. If the user enters a query without accents and special characters, the search engine will retrieve results containing both accented and unaccented words.

For example, a search for "téléphone" would not return pages with "telephone", but a search for "telephone" would return pages with "téléphone".

Advanced search options

The following is an overview of how to perform advanced searches using different query operators.

Phrase operator

A phrase query can be specified by putting quote characters ("") around your query words. Using the phrase operator specifies that the component words must appear consecutively and in the order specified. Note that intervening punctuation, HTML tags etc. will be ignored.

"certified reference materials"

Metadata search

Documents may contain metadata, including the document's author, title and when it was created. Funnelback can query this information using the syntax:


where class is the metadata class class you want to query (these are a single letter defined by the Funnelback administrator; standard classes include "a" for author, "t" for title).

The query:


locates documents containing the word "innovation" within the metadata field corresponding to the metadata class "t" (ie. the documents' title.)

Disjunction operator

The disjunction operator acts like an OR in a Boolean language. The results will contain any document that has at least one of the query terms. For example:

[indoor office] environment

A full answer to this query will include the word "environment" and one or more of "indoor" or "office".

Negation operator

The negation operator excludes all documents that contain the negated query from the fully matching results.

energy !atomic

A full answer to this query will include the word "energy" but no occurrence of the word "atomic". Unlike the mandatory exclusion operator (see below), partial results presented in subsequent result tiers may contain the word "atomic".

Mandatory exclusion operator

The mandatory exclusion operator excludes all documents that contain the negated query from all results. This is similar to the NOT operator in a Boolean language.

energy -nuclear

Fully matching results will include the word "energy" but no occurrence of the word "nuclear". Unlike the negation operator (see above), partial results will satisfy the mandatory constraint.

Mandatory inclusion operator

The mandatory inclusion operator will return results that all have the included terms.

energy +solar

Fully matching results will include the words "energy" and "solar". Every result will contain the word "solar".

Near (proximity) operator

The near operator (backquotes) requires that the query words appear, in any order, within 15 words of each other. The Funnelback administrator can adjust this limit to any number of words.

`polar ice`

The full answer to this query will be those documents that include the word "polar" within 15 words of "ice" (in any order).

Truncation operator

The truncation operator matches words that contain the query term.


This example pattern matches all words starting with anti, such as antimatter and antibody. Be careful, there are almost always more matching words than you expect.

The truncation operator can appear at the left, at the right or both, but NOT in the middle of the string.


This example pattern matches all words containing the string "technolog", such as "nanotechnology" and "biotechnological".

Date query

Date queries constrain the result set to documents that were modified/created during a specified time period. For date querying purposes, Funnelback only records one date per document. It will look for the date modified, the date created and the HTTP server's last modified date (in that order).


The d<1jan2010 query returns documents that were modified/created before the 1st of January 1600.


By default Funnelback does not stem words either in the query or in the index. You can specify stemming by appending a cross-hatch ('#') to each query word you wish to stem. For example, the query "economic# policy#" will match:

  • economic policy
  • economics policy
  • economic policies

Mixed operators

The query:

t:`cancer vaccin*`

mixes the following operators

  • metadata — search for document titles (t);
  • proximity — titles containing the query terms close to each other (in any order); and
  • truncation — words beginning with "vaccin"

Advanced search form

  • All of the words: returns results that contain all of the included words.
  • The phrase: returns results that contain this exact sequence of words.
  • None of the words: returns results that contain none of the included words.
  • Title: searches for words contained only within the title of the page.
  • Image: searches for words within the "alt" and "src" attributes of images within HTML documents.
  • Path or filename: searches for words within the path and filename of documents.
  • Published after: returns results published after the specified date.
  • Published before: returns results published before the specified date.
  • File type: only returns documents that are in the specified format.
  • Sort results by: returns results sorted by the specified criterion.

Search results

Search results are divided into fully matching and partially matching pages, ranked by relevance. The title of the page is provided with a link to the page. The Cache link allows you to view the version of the page cached by the search engine, with highlighted search keywords.

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