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Help with searches

Find out about the search concepts we use and how to use some of the more advanced search techniques available. Our search help covers:

Our search is powered by Google.

Getting Started with Search

To search for content, type a few descriptive words in the search box, and press the Enter key or click the search button. Our search produces a results page with a list of documents and web pages that are related to your search terms, with the most relevant search results appearing at the top of the page. By default, our search returns only content that includes all of your search terms. So to broaden or restrict the search, include fewer or more terms. You do not need to include "and" between the terms. For example, to search for calls for proposals in energy, type the following:

energy call proposals

Our search uses sophisticated text-matching techniques to find content that is both important and relevant to your search. For instance, our search analyses not only the candidate content, but also the content that link to it, too.

Our search also prefers content in which your query terms are near each other. Every search result lists one or more snippets, or excerpts from the content, to display the search terms in context. In the snippet, your search terms are displayed in bold text so that you can quickly determine if that result is from a page or document you want to visit.


Our searches are not case sensitive. All letters, regardless of how you enter them, are handled as lower case.

Common words

Our search ignores common words and characters, such as "where" and "how," as well as certain single digits and single letters, because they tend to slow down your search without improving the results. Our search indicates that a common word has been excluded by displaying details on the results page.

If a common word is essential to getting the results you want, you can include it by putting a plus ("+") sign in front of it. Include a space before the "+" sign, but not after it.

For example, to search for documents about energy calls, type the following:

energy +call

Alternatively, you can enclose a series of words with quotation marks and do a phrase search.

Date sort

By default, search results are sorted by relevance, with the most relevant result appearing at the top of the page. If you want to sort the content by date instead, click the “Sort by Date” link. The most recent content appears at the top of the page and the date of each file is returned in the results. Results that do not contain dates are displayed at the end and are sorted by relevance.

Expanding your search

You can expand your search by using the OR operator. To retrieve content that includes either word A or word B, use an uppercase OR between terms.

For example, to search for a programme in either chemistry or physics, type the following:

programme chemistry OR physics

Refining your search

Since our search returns only web pages that contain all of the words in your query, refining or narrowing your search is as simple as adding more words to the search terms you have already entered. The refined query returns a subset of the pages that were returned by your original broad query. If that does not get the results that you want, you can try to exclude words, search for exact phrases, or restrict the search to a range of numbers. These techniques are described in these subsections.

Word exclusion

If your search term has more than one meaning, you can focus your search by adding a minus sign ("-") in front of words related to the meaning you want to avoid. Make sure you include a space before the minus sign. You can daisy chain a list of words you want to exclude.

For example, to search for the business and exclude search results about the programme plans type the following query:

Business -programme

Our search will return content about business that do not contain the word programme.

Phrase Searches

Phrase searches are useful when you are searching for famous sayings or specific names. You can search for an exact phrase or name in the following ways: