Search Tips

Are you a search user or a search guru? Can you wrangle the search results you want at the top of the first page? Or do you find yourself constantly wading through page after page before you find what you're looking for? If you're not already a master of search, here are some basic tips to help you get better results.

Web Search Tips

Search for an exact phrase: If you're looking for a specific phrase, you can enclose that phrase within quotes to make sure the search engine looks for the phrase rather than the individual words.

Example: "sound and fury"

Exclude unwanted terms: Sometimes your search results may include results you'd rather filter out. You can exclude unwanted terms by adding a dash before a term.

Example: email -alerts

Limit your search to a specific website: You can use to limit your search results to a specific website.

Example: blog

Limit your search to specific document types: You can limit your search results to only specific filetypes, such as PDFs, Word DOCs, or even Powerpoint (PPT).

Example: sample resume filetype:doc

Search for one OR the other: When you insert OR (the capitalization is required, otherwise you will search for the word "or") between two terms or phrases, the search engine will look for pages that contain either of the queries instead of both.

Example: pharmacology OR pharmacy

People Search Tips

Names are tricky. There are often multiple ways to spell a name (Steven or Stephen, Ashley or Ashleigh, etc.). Your memory of a person's name may be a bit hazy - was it Mary, Maria, or Marianne? Was the last name Robinson or Robertson? Finding the right person under the VCU People Search is as simple as entering what you know. (If all you know is the last name and it's a very popular last name like Smith, you might need to refine your search a little further.) See the table below for some specific searches:

To search for:Enter:Explanation:
John Smith john smith or John Smith or smith, john You may use uppercase or lowercase letters. If you type the last name first, put a comma after it.
Mary Fitzgerald or Marilyn Fitzpatrick mar fitz You may enter only the beginning of the first or last name. pendingp You may search by e-mail address.
Pat Robinson or Patricia Robertson pat rob*son You may use an asterisk if you don’t know the middle letters of a name.

This article was updated: 01/25/2018