Searching Web-Accessible Etext Center Collections
Note: This helpsheet presumes that the user is searching the Modern English Collection at the Etext Center. In most cases, the instructions for searching Modern English are easily applicable to searching other databases as well.
To get to search pages from the Electronic Text Center homepage:
Searching for a Word
To search for a word or phrase in the whole database, enter a word or phrase in the search line, and click on the Submit Query button. For example, if you search the public collections for rowdy within All works the search engine retrieves 72 matches. This includes all the words in the database beginning with "rowdy": e.g. rowdy, rowdyism, and rowdyish. If you add a space after the end of the word you will get only the precise word form rowdy (60 matches).
The instructions for searching for a phrase are identical to those
above except that you type in a phrase instead of a single word. Try
rowdy element instead of rowdy. The search engine retrieves
the following results:
Found: 1 work
Hazeltine, Alice I.: Library Work with Children August 1917 : 1 matches
Compound searching allows you to search for two words (or phrases) within a specified range of one another.
Click on the link at the bottom of the main search page ("You can also perform a compound search"). To perform the search you need to enter the first word (or phrase), and then the second, in the spaces provided.
By default, the search is performed "within 40 characters," but this proximity value can be reset to 80 or 120 characters. A larger proximity value usually brings in more results, but also increases your chances of retrieving items that are proximate but not conceptually related.
So, if you enter technical on the first search line and detail on the second, you will get the times that the words "technical" and "detail" appear within 40 characters of each other--in this case, 20 works. The same search with the proximity distance set to 120 characters yields 29 works.
Other Compound Search possibilities are Followed By, Not Near, and Not Followed by.
All works is the default category but you can choose to search many other categories, including the bibliographical records alone (Bibliographic headers), poetic works, speeches in drama, publishers, and descriptions of illustrations.
Word, phrase, and proximity searches can all be performed on these
specific parts of the database. Rather than leaving the default All
works category in place, reset it to one of the subcategories, such
as Speeches in Drama or Prose Works:
Search for word or phrase:
within [Speeches in drama_____________________]
"alas" within Speeches in drama: 67 works
Search for word or phrase:
within [Prose Works Only_______________________]
"alack" within Prose Works Only: 41 works
Click here for a descriptive list of search categories currently supported by this web interface.
Viewing the Results
When you sumbit your search, you may choose to group your results by match or by work. If you choose match, the results will appear directly as a Keyword in Context (KWIC) display (see below).
Grouping by Works
If you group the results by work, the results are grouped by the works in which your search word or phrase appears. The author's name and the work title are followed by the number of matches within the work. For example, these are some of the results of a search on "jefferson":
Faulkner, William, Light in August  : 107 matches
Civil War Newspapers, The Civil War: A Newspaper Perspective (1861 February) [1860-1865 ] : 45 matches
Various, The African American Newspapers: The 19th Century : 38 matches
Doyle, Arthur Conan, A Study in Scarlet  : 37 matches
Click on a title to see the specific lines where the word or phrase occurs within the work. This display is called the Keywood in Context (KWIC) display.
The Keyword in Context (KWIC) display
The Keyword in Context (KWIC) display appears after you click on a specific title in your results grouped by works, or by simply grouping your search results by match. This display gives you one line of context for each result. Select a result to move on to the next level of information.
The Surrounding Context display
Having selected one of the results, you are given a surrounding context of 600 characters, and the ability to move on to some larger context. The choices are:
- Bibliographic Header [i.e., bibliographic header only]
- Page [when available]
- Section [when available] [for example, the chapter in which the word occurs.]
- Full Text [i.e., work and bibliographic header]