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Definition

search string

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A search string is the combination of all text, numbers and symbols entered by a user into a search engine to find desired results.

Search strings are used to find files and their content, database information and web pages. A search string may include keywords, numeric data and operators. Stop words (frequently used words such as the) are not indexed and are ignored in search queries. However, some search engines allow them to be considered in search through an inclusion operator, such as a plus sign appended to the front of the word.

Operators are search commands (often entered in capital letters) that are used to refine searches. Wildcard characters, for example, represent one or more other characters or a word. The most commonly used wildcard characters are the asterisk (*), which in Google represents zero or more characters and the question mark (?), which represents a single word. Parentheses ( ) indicate that the enclosed terms are to be searched for first.

Boolean operators allow one to specify words for inclusion and exclusion of terms and phrases in search results. For example, “apples NOT oranges” will include results with the former but exclude those with the latter. Proximity operators specify distance of two terms on the page as a requirement for returning a result. W(5), for example will limit results to pages in which the two terms are within five words of each other.

Multiple operators can be combined to fine-tune a search query.

This was last updated in August 2016

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