Tips and reminders for successful searches

Use or for broader searches

Combining search terms (whether they’re keywords or index terms, see below) with or will bring back a wide range of results that contain either or both of them: doors or windows.

Use and for narrower searches

Combining terms with and will bring fewer results, but more precise ones since they will include both words: doors and windows.

Use not (cautiously) to exclude things you don’t need

If you’re interested in doors and not interested in windows you can try doors not windows. Just remember that some documents about doors also mention windows, so you may be excluding things you might have liked to see.

Find word variations with the truncator $

You can also use the truncation symbol $ to find words that have the same beginning: searching for histor$ will find history, historic, historical etc.

Find exact phrases with " " or adj

There are two ways to find an exact phrase: "magnuson park" or magnuson adj park.

Find inexact phrases with adj + $

Combine adj with $ to find phrases where there may be some variation in how a word has been spelled: magnus$ adj park.

Don’t use common small words in your searches

Certain common words (stopwords) are not included in the database system's internal indexes. If you include them in a search query you will get misleading results unless it’s as part of an exact phrase. For example, "dogs with leashes" will work better as a search than dogs with leashes.

This lists the words not indexed in the databases created by the Seattle City Clerk's Office. If you search for these words, you may get misleading results.

a        about     all       among     an         and
are      as        at        be        been       between
both     but       by        do        during     each
either   for       found     from      further    has
have     however   if        in        into       is
it       its       made      make      many       more
most     must      no        not       of         on
or       same      several   some      such       than
that     the       their     these     they       this
those    through   to        toward    upon       used
using    was       were      what      which      while
who      will      with      within    would

Use the wild card ? if there may be spelling variations

Another way to compensate for possible spelling variations, you can use the wild card character ? to match any one character: anders?n.

Use these tricks for finding words in relation to other words

When you don’t know the exact phrasing but know that words are related, here are some things to try:

  • Use near to connect words occurring in the same sentence and in any order: parks near agreement.
    • You can vary this one for more precise results: parks near3 agreement will find items where the two search terms appear within three words of one another.
  • Use with to connect words appearing in the same sentence: amend$ with code.
  • Use same to retrieve documents where the two search terms appear in the same paragraph: magnuson same trails.

Use 0 to quickly see what’s new

Using 0 (zero) as your search term in the "terms anywhere" field in any legislative database will display all items in reverse-chronological order, so it’s probably the fastest way to see the most recent items added.

Restricting a search to a database field

Sometimes it is helpful to restrict a search to a certain part of a database record, or "field." The labeled boxes in the search forms allow some field-specific searching, but more flexibility is possible. For instance, it is possible to retrieve all City Council Resolutions sponsored by Councilmember Jim Street by entering the following in the "Words anywhere" box of the Resolution database search form: street.spon.

The search term is followed by a dot, the field code, and another dot. To use this technique you need to know the field names for the database you are searching.

Explore, and reach out!

Be creative in your searching, and mix-and-match your strategies! And of course if you don’t find what you need, let us know and we’ll do our best to help., 206-684-8344.