Search Tips:Help - University of Canterbury

Search Help

Which Search to Use

Getting Started with Search

To search for a document, type a few descriptive words in the search box, and press the Enter key or click the search button. A results page appears with a list of documents and web pages that are related to your search terms, with the most relevant search results appearing at the top of the page. By default, only pages that include all of your search terms are returned. So to broaden or restrict the search, include fewer or more terms. You do not need to include "and" between the terms. For example, to search for engineering product specification documents, type the following:


The search appliance searches are not case sensitive. All letters, regardless of how you enter them, are handled as lower case. For example, searches for "school of law," "School of Law," and "School of law" return the same results.

Common Words

The search appliance ignores common words and characters, such as "where" and "how," as well as certain single digits and single letters, because they tend to slow down your search without improving the results.

If a common word is essential to getting the results you want, you can include it by putting a plus ("+") sign in front of it. Include a space before the "+" sign, but not after it. For example, to search for documents about Star Wars I, type the following:

Alternatively, you can enclose a series of words with quotation marks and do a phrase search.

Date Sort

By default, search results are sorted by relevance, with the most relevant result appearing at the top of the page. If you want to sort the documents by date instead, click the Sort by Date link. The most recent document appears at the top of the page and the date of each file is returned in the results. Results that do not contain dates are displayed at the end and are sorted by relevance.


When you search for numbers, do not use exponential numbers, such as "1e10," or negative integers, such as "-12."

Numbers that are separated by commas are treated as separate figures, not fractional numbers; that is, the comma is treated as a term separator, not a decimal separator. For example, if you type "3,75", the search query is treated as a search for two separate terms, "3" and "75", not the decimal fraction, "three and three quarters." Commas that separate every three digits are ignored and are not necessary. For example, both "10,000" and "10000" are treated alike.

Expanding Your Search

You can expand your search by using the OR operator. To retrieve pages that include either word A or word B, use an uppercase OR between terms. For example, to search for a project in either physics or geology, type the following:

Refining Your Search

Since the search appliance returns only web pages that contain all of the words in your query, refining or narrowing your search is as simple as adding more words to the search terms you have already entered. The refined query returns a subset of the pages that were returned by your original broad query. If that does not get the results that you want, you can try to exclude words, search for exact phrases, or restrict the search to a range of numbers. These techniques are described in the following subsections.

Word Exclusion

If your search term has more than one meaning, you can focus your search by adding a minus sign ("-") in front of words related to the meaning you want to avoid. Make sure you include a space before the minus sign. You can daisy chain a list of words you want to exclude.

For example, to search for forestry but exclude results about forestry engineering, type the following:

The search appliance returns pages about Saturn that do not contain the word "car" or "god."

Phrase Searches

Phrase searches are useful when you are searching for famous sayings or specific names. You can search for an exact phrase or name in the following ways:

  • By enclosing the phrase in quotation marks. The search appliance only returns documents that include the exact phrase you entered.
  • By using phrase connectors—such as hyphens, slashes, periods, equal signs, and apostrophes—in between every word of your search query.

Phrase connectors and quotation marks join your search words as a single unit. For example, if you type the following query, the search appliance treats it as a phrase search even though the search words are not enclosed in quotation marks.

Date Range Searches

You can search for documents that contain dates that fall within a time frame. To use date range search, type all of the following:

  • The search term
  • The daterange: operator
  • The start date (YYYY-MM-DD)
  • The range separator (..)
  • The end date

Do not add a space between the search operator and the date range.

For example, to search for a document about alumni that was modified within a specific one-year period, type the following:

The earliest date that you can use in your date range search is January 1, 1990; and the latest date, November 9, 2034.

Site Operator

Restricts the search to documents in a web site. If you do not specify the web site, your search will return results from all University of Canterbury sites.

The site: operator lets you extend the search restriction down to directories.

Typing help in the search box returns pages only from the

Typing restricts the search to everything in the courses folder. If the trailing slash is omitted, as in, all subdirectories are searched.