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Searching Tips and Tricks

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Search page || What Gets Searched? || Search Features || Help Desk
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[Below: Searching DOs and DON'Ts]

How to work the search page controls

  1. Do you want to find items that have:
    At least one of your keywords, all, in any order, or that exact phrase?

    If you select the button for:

    -- at least one of your keywords
    you will get items that contain any of your words. This can be useful if you are looking for either "dynamical" or "chaotic" to look up dynamical or chaotic systems, since a page about them may mention only one of these terms.

    -- all, in any order
    you will get items that contain all your words, no matter what order they're in on the pages. You could use this option to search for an item concerning light speed, which might also appear as "speed of light."

    -- that exact phrase
    you will get items that contain all your words in the order you typed them. You might use this option to search for items dealing with natural numbers, where you're looking for pages that say "Mathematicians define a natural number as...," but not pages that mention "the natural flow of the river" and "the number of birds on the riverbank."

  2. Do you want to find items containing your keywords as
    complete words only, or as parts of other words as well?

    If you select the button for:

    --complete words only
    you will get precisely the word for which you are searching.

    --as parts of other words as well
    you will get anything containing that string of letters. By searching for "logic," for example, you will find logical, logician, topological, illogical, homological, and morphological, among others.

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Searching DOs and DON'Ts

DO

  • Double-check your spelling if you get no matches. Our searcher will try to correct typos and misspellings, but it can't catch them all.

  • Search for the singular form of your term on a first search: if you search for Mersenne primes, you'll miss pages like "Mersenne Prime freeware."

  • If you get too many results, try narrowing your search, perhaps by spelling out the full word you're searching for, or adding another term likely to be found in a page on your topic, or searching a specific archive.

  • Spell out ordinal number keywords such as "first" and "second," since "1st" and "2nd" won't get as many matches.

  • If you are searching for specific equations or constants, write out the name of the equation or constant, or of some of the components of the equation. Searching for "e=mc^2" won't find anything helpful. It's better to search for "Einstein relativity theory" or "energy mass speed light" using the "all, in any order" button.

DON'T

  • Don't use common words like the, and, a, or of, except in exact phrase searches. Note that "math" is a common word at the Math Forum! Our searcher will ignore common words.

  • Don't use Boolean operators, since our searcher isn't capable of them. It doesn't make use of special search terms such as AND, OR, NOT, +, or -.

  • Don't submit equations to be computed, since our searcher is not a calculator. Instead, try looking at the calculators resource type in our Internet Mathematics Library.

  • Don't ask questions such as "How do you find the area of a cone?" Our searcher doesn't understand English. Search for formula, area, and cone, or try looking in Ask Dr. Math instead.

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