Search – Building powerful, complex queries

The Internet Archive has tens of millions of items, so sometimes finding exactly what you’re looking for can be difficult. But if you learn to build more complex search queries, you can narrow your results much more quickly. This video (or the advanced search page) is a good place to start.

In general, using Boolean Operators and doing fielded searches are your best bets.

Boolean Operators

The video above contains a quick explanation, but you can also read more about Boolean Operators elsewhere on the Internet. They are useful on archive.org, but you can use them in other search engines too. As a quick recap, the most common are:

  • AND – narrows your search
  • OR – widens your search
  • AND NOT – excludes things from your search
  • (  ) – parentheses prioritize the contents within
  • ”  “ – double quotes will only return searches with an exact match for that phrase within

Fielded Searches

If you would like to explore doing more fielded searches, use the Internet Archive metadata schema to figure out what fields you can search and what their values tend to look like. Here are some common fields you might want to search:

  • title – the title of the work 
    • e.g. title:”war and peace” will find items with the exact phrase “war and peace” in the title field
  • subject – terms that describe the content of the work (also referred to as topics or keywords)
    • e.g. subject:mythology will find items with the word mythology in their subject fields
  • creator – the person (or entity) that created the work, e.g. the author, director, conductor, etc.
    • e.g. creator:(Dickens AND Charles) will find all items with both Dickens and Charles in the creator field
  • date – the date the work was published, often in YYYY or YYYY-MM-DD format
    • e.g. date:1922 will find all items with a publish date within the year 1922

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