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Making Queries

Excite for Web Servers gives web users access to a sophisticated concept-based searching engine. But even though the search engine is advanced, users can form queries without using a complicated query language. This page will help you to choose the queries that will give you the best results.

Query Basics

A query is simply a description of an information need. Unlike Boolean systems that search for just those documents containing all the words in your query, Excite for Web Servers will search for documents that are a best match for the words in your query. Excite for Web Servers will also search for documents that are about the same concepts that your query describes, so sometimes Excite for Web Servers will bring back articles that don't mention any of the words in your original query.

What this means is that your query -- the description of your information need -- can be as detailed as you like. Don't worry about providing too many words; the more words, the better. Additional words in your query will help Excite for Web Servers figure out what concepts you're really interested in. On the other hand, Excite for Web Servers will do a pretty good job of figuring out what documents are interesting to you even if your query is vague.

For example, let's say you're searching a web site for documents about customer support for the Widget2000 product you're using. A good starting point would be

        customer support for the Widget2000
If you have a question about a particular feature of the Widget2000, for example the Blurfl upgrade package, you might choose a query like

        customer support for the Blurfl upgrade package
        of the Widget2000
Even if there are no documents that are actually about the Blurfl upgrade, Excite for Web Servers will still show you documents about Widget2000 customer support.

Advanced Query Tips

Here are some suggestions for getting the best results out of Excite for Web Servers.

Use More Words
The easiest way to narrow your Excite for Web Servers search and the first thing you should try is to simply use more words in your query. The greater the detail you provide, the better Excite for Web Servers is able to find precisely what you're looking for. Also try using the Query By Example option on the search results page.

Use + to Require Words
Put a plus sign (+) in front of a search word and Excite for Web Servers will make sure that ALL of the documents it returns contain the word. Example search: Travel +France.

Use - to Exclude Words
Put a minus sign (-) in front of a search word and Excite for Web Servers will make sure that NONE of the documents it returns contain the word. Example search: Jaguar -car -automobiles.

Use AND, OR, NOT, AND NOT, ( )
Excite for Web Servers supports full Boolean operators and syntax. You c an use the AND, OR, NOT, and AND NOT operators, and parentheses ( ) for grouping . Example search: swimming AND (man OR woman).


Using a Plus Sign (+) to Require Words

What it does:
Excite for Web Servers will make sure that ALL of the documents it finds include the word(s) you specify as being required.

How to use it:
In your search text, put a plus sign (+) in front of words that must be in documents that Excite for Web Servers finds. Do not put a space between the plus sign (+) and the word. For example, to find documents about hockey, but only those with the term NHL in them you could enter:

        hockey +NHL

What's different about it:
Without the plus sign (+), Excite for Web Servers looks for documents about any of the words in your search text. Excite for Web Servers will rank documents that have all of the words higher, but will also list documents that have only some of your search words as well as documents that may have none of your search words, but that appear to be conceptually related.

The downside:
You may miss related documents that don't have the words you specify as required. For example, the search "hockey +NHL" would not include documents that have the words National Hockey League, but not NHL.


Using a Minus Sign (-) to Exclude Words

What it does:
Excite for Web Servers will make sure that NONE of the documents it finds contain any word(s) you specify to exclude.

How to do it:
In your search text, put a minus sign (-) in front of words that must not be in documents that Excite for Web Servers finds. Do not put any space between the minus sign (-) and the word. For example, if you want to find documents about zeppelin aircraft but not the rock band Led Zeppelin, you could enter: Zeppelin -Led

What's different about it:
Without the minus sign (-), Excite for Web Servers looks for documents that are conceptually-related to all the search words you provide, rather than looking for items to exclude from the results.

The downside:
It's easy to exclude too much. For example, if you were looking for information on greyhound dogs and not the bus company, the search "greyhound -bus" would exclude a document that was all about greyhounds, but that had the sentence "the greyhound trainers arrived by bus."


Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT and ()

What they do/How to use them:
AND - Documents found must contain all words joined by the AND operator. Note that this is equivalent to putting a plus sign (+) in front of the word. For example, to find documents that have all of the words wizard, oz and movie, you could enter: wizard AND oz AND movie

OR - Documents found must contain at least one of the words joined by OR. For example, to find documents that have either the words cat or kitten you could enter: cat OR kitten

AND NOT - Documents found cannot contain the word after the term AND NOT. Note that this is equivalent to putting a minus sign (-) in front of the word. For example, to find documents that have the word pets, but not the word dogs, you could enter: pets AND NOT dogs

( ) - Parentheses are used to group portions of Boolean queries together. For example, to find documents that have the word fruit, and either the word banana or the word apple in them, you could enter: fruit AND (banana OR apple)

What's different about it:
Allows for excluding and requiring words, and complex combinations of words.

The downside:
It's often difficult to specify exactly what you want to include or exclude. You can also get unexpected results if you are not careful about your use of operators and parentheses. For example, the search bananas OR apples AND oranges is the same as the search bananas OR (apples AND oranges). Both queries will find documents that contain both apples and oranges, together with documents that contain the word bananas. However, the query (bananas OR apples) AND oranges is not the same. It will find documents containing the word oranges and, in the same document, either bananas or apples. Be careful out there!

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