User:Nolaneclark/sandbox/Wiki Search Tips and Strategies

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From the search engine on ResearchWiki, a researcher can use three different methods to search for articles. This article explains each of the three methods.  It also explains methods to expand your search options. We suggest that you try various search methods in order to increase the likelihood of finding useful articles.

Three Principal Search Methods[edit | edit source]

  • Browse by Location
This allows you to select a country from an alphabetical list and go directly to the home page for that country.
From the country home page, you can access home pages for political subdivisions of countries. For example, from the United States home page, you can go directly to the various state pages and from the state pages to the county pages.
  • Search by Keywords
This search methods operates similarly to the search engine for Wikipedia.  The search engine looks for keywords found on each page in the ResearchWiki.
For example, one can type in key words such as:
Iowa cemeteries
African American Research
  • Browse by Subject
This allows you to search for articles that have been categorized by subject matter. This is similar to using a partial index, organized by categories and subcategories.

Browse by Location[edit | edit source]

  • How to use this search method
Click on the words "Browse by location", which can be found on the right part of the search bar.  When you click on "Browse by location," an alphabetical list of countries will appear. From this list, one can go directly to the home page for that country.
  • Advantages of this search method:
Genealogical sources are usually found in or near the place when a person was born, lived or died. Thus, most research is geographically based.  Most of the articles on the ResearchWiki relate to specific political entities, such as a country, state, county or town. Searching "by country" leads you directly to articles relating to any particular country, and allows access to articles relating to political subdivisions of that country. 
  • Limitations of this search method:
This search method cannot be used to access articles that are not related to any specific geographic area. For example, one cannot use this search method to find articles relating to finding aids or research methodology.
This search method does not allow access to geographic based articles that are not specific to a particular existing country. For example, this method will not lead to articles relating to former countries (for example, Austo-Hungarian Empire) or to larger geographic subdivisions (for example, Asia, Scandanavia, Polynesia or Middle East).
  • Strategy for using this search method:
Search information about location, starting from the largest political jurisdiction and working towards the smallest political subdivision. For example, within the United States, search the articles in the following order: United States; state; county; town or city.
The homepages for most countries and states are partially organized by topic. For example, the United States home page includes (on the table at the left top part of the article) the following topics:
Basic Search Strategies Record Selection Table
States and Capitols Map Adoption African Americans
American Indians Archives and Libraries Bible Records
Biography Cemeteries Census
Church Records Correctional Institutions Court Records
Database Websites Directories Emigration and Immigration
Funeral Homes Gazetteers Genealogy
Handwriting Historical Geography History
Land and Property Maps Migration
Military Records Minorities Naturalization and Citizenship
Newspapers Obituaries Occupations
Periodicals Probate Records Societies
Timeline Taxation Town Records
Vital Records Voter Records Other Records

Search by Key Words[edit | edit source]

  • How to use this search method
In the search box, enter a keyword or words that relate to the desired topic. For example, you may type:
  • a place;
  • an ethnic group;
  • a topic; or
  • a type of record.
The display results will show the names of articles. Displayed first are articles with titles that contain the keywords, followed by articles that include the keywords within the contents of the article, based on frequency of appearance of the keywords.
The display will show the total number of search results. If the total number of articles is high, you should probably modify your search.
The default display setting is to show up to 20 articles. At the bottom of the "Search results" page, you can increase the number of results shown. In addition, at the bottom of the "Search results" page you can move to the next list of results or move to previous results.
Click on an article title to view the article.
Search Using Quotation Marks
If you place quotation marks around the key words, the search results will be limited to articles that contain that exact phrase. With no quotation marks, the search results will include articles that include each of the keywords that you have entered.
Search Using Wild Cards
You can use an asterisk as a "wild card" to replace 0 or more letters.
  • Advantages of this search method
This is the most flexible of the three search methods.
Searching by keywords theoretically allows access to all wiki articles.
If you know the name of the article that you seek, this search method allows you to find that article very quickly.
  • Limitations of this search method
The results obtained depend on the keywords selected.
If you use a single general word, you may obtain too many results; as a result, it may be time consuming to find articles relating to the topic that you seek.
If you use (1) an exact phrase, (2) too many words or (3) words that are too specific, you may fail to find articles related to the subject matter that you seek but do not use the exact phrase or all of the keywords that you entered.
  • Strategy for using this search method
If you know the title of an article, enter words from the title.
If you expect that an exact phrase will appear in articles of the type that you seek, enter the exact phrase, with the keywords enclosed within quotation marks.
Otherwise, enter words that you expect to find within an article relating to the subject that you seek. Start with at most two words in the search box.  Add additional words if your initial search brings up too many results.

Browse by Subject[edit | edit source]

  • How to use this search method
Click on the words "Browse by subject", which can be found on right part of the search bar. When you click on "Browse by subject," you retrieve a list of major topics.  By selecting any of these major topics, you will obtain a list of subcategories and articles relating to that general topic. Within various subcategories, you may find further subcategories that will lead to articles relating to that subcategory.
  • Advantages of this search method:
By using this search method, you can obtain an overview of various types of articles found in ResearchWiki. This will allow you to identify various categories of articles that may be of interest, but of which of which you were not aware.
This search method will lead to groups of articles related by subject, rather than merely to a specific article.
  • Limitations of this search method:
Some articles on the wiki are not assigned categories or subcategories that fall within the major topics listed. Thus, this search method cannot be used to access all articles within the ResearchWiki.
  • Strategy for using this search method:
Learn about the structure of "Browse by subject" by clicking on each major topic. This will show you the various subcategories and articles relating to each key subject.
On each page that comes up when you click on a key subject, examine both the subcategories and the linked pages.

Tools to expand your search[edit | edit source]

  • Identify other articles within the same category:
Most articles within the wiki are assigned to one or more categories. You can find the assigned categories by looking near the bottom of each article. For example, on the bottom of the home page for Virginia, one can find: "Categories:Virginia|States of the United States". By clicking on the word "Virginia", you will access the page "Category:Virginia". "Category:Virginia" lists: (1) subcategories within Category:Virginia and (2) articles directly categorized within Category:Virginia. Within these subcategories and articles, one should be able to locate most if not all articles relating to Virginia.
  • Identify linked articles
Most articles are linked to other articles. These linked articles may provide information of value to your search. You can find linked articles through the tools within the purple-shaded area at the right portion of each wiki article. When you click on the word "Toolbox," you will see a drop down menu that includes the words "What links here". If you click on the words "What links here," you will come to a list of articles that are linked to that wiki article.
  • Search within other "namespaces"
Articles in the wiki are grouped into collections called "namespaces." Most articles on the wiki are "content pages" contained within the Main Namespace. The purpose of "content pages" is to provide information for researchers. To create an article with a "namespace" other than "content," one begins the article title with appropriate terms such as "Help", "FamilySearch Wiki", "User", or "File."
If you search by keywords, the search results will, by default, show only "content pages."  You can expand your search beyond the "content pages" by clicking on tabs within the shaded box that appears near the top of each "Search results" page. For example, you can click on "Help and Project pages" to search for help articles and for project page articles. Similarly, you can click on "Everything" and find all articles that include the words entered in the search box. For example, "Everything" will provide access to "Sandbox" articles and "User pages."