User's Guide & Site Help

5. Search

Oxford Biblical Studies Online features many ways to search content, from the Quick Search box at the top right of every page to the multiple advanced search forms available via the Search link on the main navigation bar.

5.1. Basic Guide for Conducting Searches

The following rules apply to all of the searches on the site.

5.1.1. Exact matches

Use quotation marks to tell Search that you are looking for a specific phrase and word order. For example:

mount sinai

will return any results in which both the term "mount" and the term "sinai" appear. A search for these terms within quotes,

"mount sinai"

will return only results that have the exact phrase "mount sinai."

5.1.2. Boolean operators

Search supports the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT.


Unless you tell it otherwise, Search assumes that you only want results in which ALL of your search terms appear. This means that there is an implicit "AND" between all your search terms. So entering:

gold coins

will return the same results as if you had entered:

gold AND coins


You can use the OR operator to tell Search to return results in which either search term exists. For instance, if you enter:

coin OR inscription

your results will include any article in which either "coin" or "inscription" exists.


The NOT operator excludes documents that contain the term after NOT. For example,

vessels NOT jars

will return all results for "vessels" which do not include the term "jars."

Proximity (NEAR)

Use the NEAR operator to specify search terms that you want to appear close to each other. Adding NEAR between terms narrows the search to look for content in which those terms are separated by no more than ten words. For example,

solomon NEAR temple

will return all results in which the terms "solomon" and "temple" appear within ten words of each other.

Nesting commands

Boolean commands can be nested for more complex searches. Parentheses tell Search which expressions to evaluate first, before combining with other Boolean operators. For example:

(abraham OR moses) NEAR "egypt"

5.1.3. Wildcards

You can use the * and ? wildcards in most non-numeric search fields. The question mark or ? character represents any single character.

For example quart? will return results for quartz and quarts.

The asterisk or * character represents any number of characters.

Entering bead* will return results for beads and beading.

5.1.4. Special characters

The site is sensitive to diacritical marks, and permits searching with or without their use (using diacritics can be especially valuable in the Concordance, for instance). Thus, a search for


will return results that match the term cuneiforme as well as cunéiforme.

A search for


will only find cunéiforme and not cuneiforme.

Apostrophes, such as those indicating possessive case, should be used when needed in search queries. For example,

Pauls journeys

Needs to be entered with the apostrophe in place as

Paul's journeys

in order to get desired results.

5.1.5. Case sensitivity and punctuation

Search terms entered in all lower case will return results in both upper and lower cases. A search for


will return results that match both the variations "father" and "Father."

However, owing to case sensitivity, a search using all upper-case letters, such as "FATHER."

will either have null results or will only locate instances of the word when it appears in upper-case letters within the content.

Search is case insensitive when all search terms are lower-case and case sensitive when capitalization is used. A search for:

Twelve Apostles

will only return results that use "Twelve" and "Apostles" with initial capitals, omitting results containing the words when they appear as "twelve" or "apostles."

5.1.6. "Stop" words

By default, Search ignores certain common words in English. The stop words we use on the site are: a, an, and, are, as, at, be, but, by, for, if, in, into, is, it, no, not, of, on, or, such, that, the, their, then, there, these, they, this, to, was, will, with.

Therefore a search entered as

teaching of the twelve apostles

will seek out the works "teaching" and "twelve" and "apostles" and ignore the words "of" and "the".

To conduct an efficient search for a specific phrase containing stop words, enter your words surrounded by quotation marks:

"teaching of the twelve apostles"

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