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12/10/2023 12:10 PM
Pennsylvania General Assembly
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Keyword Search Tips

Stem Searching

By default, the search engine searches for your search word/phrase and all stemmed variations of the word/phrase. For example, when searching for nurse, you will find nurse, nurses, nursing, etc. To search just for the word nurse without any of the stemmed variations, enclose your search word in quotes ("nurse"). Check the output from the following searches:


A phrase is a grouping of two or more words that occur next to each other in a specific order. To find a phrase without any variations of the words, enclose the phrase in quotes.

To find a phrase but with variations of any of the words within the phrase, do not enclose the phrase in quotes.

The first search will only return documents in which both "professional" and "nurse" occur, only in the order in which we specify - "professional" and then "nurse", and with no variations of our search words.  The second search will return any documents in which our phrase occurs, however, this time we will find phrases such as "nursing professionals" as well as "Professional Nurses".
NOTE: By default, two or more words separated by a space are considered to be a phrase.

Using Search Operators

(click on the word to view a full explanation of the operator):

To search for the actual word "and" (or any other operator), include a ~ after the operator.

In the first search, the word "and" becomes part of the phrase. In the second search, "and" is a search operator and the search terms will not be treated as a phrase.


The AND operator is used to narrow your search. The search engine will find documents that have all of your search terms.

The first search, "forest fire", will give you all instances of the phrase "forest fire", including "forest fires", "Forest fire", etc (ie, the stemmed variations of the phrase). The second search will give you all documents that contain both the words "forest" and "fire" (and their stemmed variations), regardless of the location of the words in relation to each other.

If desired, additional instances of the AND operator can be used to narrow or expand your search:

This search will return 38 documents, a reduction of over 20 documents from the previous search "forest AND fire" in Example #3 above.


The OR operator is used to expand your search by finding documents that contain at least one of your search words or phrases.

This search will return 404 documents. Each document contains either the word "lawyer" OR the word "physician" (or both).


The NOT operator is used to exclude documents that contain a specific word or phrase. To eliminate a word or phrase put the NOT operator as the first word in the text area (EXAMPLE #6). This search will return all documents that do not include the word "commonwealth".

To include one word but exclude another use the AND NOT operator (EXAMPLE #7):

This search will return all documents that contain the word "bank" but not those that include the word "river". This would be useful if you were interested in documents in which the word "bank" refers to financial institutions and not river banks.

W/N and NOT W/N

Use the W/N connector in a search request to specify that one word or phrase must occur within N words of the other.

To retrieve documents that contain "nursing" and "organizations" where "organizations" would occur within 10 words of "nursing", you can enter the following:

This search will return all documents that contain the words "nursing" and "organizations". The words "nursing" and "organizations" can fall in any order and will not necessarily be next to each other.

The NOT W/N ("not within") operator allows you to search for a word or phrase not in association with another word or phrase.

The above search will return all documents that contain the word "nursing" but that do not have the word "organizations" within 10 words of "nursing". Using the "NOT W/N" is a good way of doing a refined search.


The "*" will help you find various versions of a particular word within a document. With the "*" operator, you define part of a word and then use the asterisk character. For example, to retrieve documents that contain words that start with the letters "administ" you can enter the following:

This search will return documents in which you might see the words "administrative", "administration", and "administered". You can also use the "*" wildcard character in the beginning or middle of a word.

 Using the wildcard at the beginning of a word will slow searches.