Advanced Search Engine: Help page

The website has a simple search and an advanced search option. If you have any questions about the results produced by the search service, please contact the site webmaster

General Search Tips

If one or more of your search terms have not been found, or if they are not very common the Did you Mean spelling suggestion functionality will offer alternative search terms at the top of the results page. Click the Did you Mean link to re-run the search using the suggested search terms.


It is not necessary to include apostrophes when using the search engine. If apostrophes are included the search will still run but any apostrophes within the search terms will be ignored.

Too many hits

If your search is not specific enough it may produce too may results for the search engine to list. This is most notable when the result list returns over 1000 results and our advice is to reduce your search using the Date Created option or by selecting specific document type(s) to search over.

With all the words: Use this search box to enter any key words that must appear in the returned document(s)

With any of the words: Use this search box to enter any key words that may appear in the returned document(s). This allows you to specify more key words than you actually need because not all are required. This can help when you are not entirely sure what words would be in the text.

With the exact phrase: Use this field to specify the exact phrase you want to search for. One or more phrases may be entered in this field and each should be enclosed by quotation marks, for example "fox hunting" "hare coursing". When more than one phrase of entered the search will return results containing both phrases. The words of your exact phrase will need to be a duplication of the text you expect to find on the web page you are looking for in order for the search engine to be successful.

With the exact phrase - an extra tip 1: In order to significantly improve the results of a phrase search:

  • always include a date range for your search
  • if possible also include the document type(s) to be searched.

With the exact phrase - an extra tip 2:  
Combining an Exact Phrase search with one of the other fields such as ALL will produce results that include either the exact phrase or the single word in the ALL field which may not narrow you search in the right direction.

Without the words
This can only be used with the ANY or ALL options, above. Basically, if you enter a number of words in the ALL search box you can also enter words in this box to filter out documents that contain all of the ALL words and none of the without words.


The categories field enables you to filter your search for content that has been classified using the Government Category List (GCL) thesaurus.  Use the Select Category Link to open the Category Selector in order to choose classifications to filter the search by.  The selected categories are then included in the Categories field when the Category Selector is closed.  By default the Categories are included using Boolean ‘OR’ search criteria.  This will return results that have been classified as any of the selected categories.  To search for results that have been classified with all of the selected categories change the ‘OR’ to ‘AND’.

Category Selector

The Browse tab on the Category Selector enables you to browse the GCL categories. The Category Selector only shows the preferred terms in the thesaurus. Click the Add button by the category to add it to the Categories field.

The Search tab on the Category Selector enables you to search the GCL thesaurus for the relevant classification.  When search terms are entered this will search all the GCL categories and their synonyms and return any matching categories that can then be added to the search.

The Existing Filters tab enables you to easily check, and if required remove individual filters or all filters that have been added to the categories field.

Document Type

Which set of pages or documents do you want to search?
This section contains a selection of tick boxes that you can use to restrict your search to certain parts of the site. The tick boxes are arranged by House, or document type. Alternatively, the tick boxes may remain unticked to search across the entire site.

Who is speaking? Surname

This search box can be used to search for either the surname or full name of the speaker. Enter the surname or full name of the speaker to search Hansard (both Commons and Lords) for speeches made by that speaker. Entering the full name can help to narrow your search.  A search for "Helen Clark" will ensure that contributions from other Members with the surname "Clark" are not included in the results. Again, this may be used in conjunction with the tick boxes, above, to restrict to one House or the other.

Did You Mean will offer alternative suggestions if there are few results for the speaker name entered, or the name is not found.


Names with apostrophes, such as O'Brien, should be entered without the apostrophes - OBrien

Hyphenated names

Hyphenated names should be added to this field without the hyphen in between the names. Curtis-Thomas will therefore be typed in as Curtis Thomas

Question Number

Use this box to search for speeches that have a Question Number associated with them. This is used for Commons and Lords Hansard and for Order Book searches.

Document Format: What format is the document or page?

There are three selections here: Any, HTML or PDF. Nearly all documents on the site are in HTML format, so either select this or Any for accurate searches.

Date created

Use this facility to restrict your searches by date. There are four options available:


Use this to search across all date ranges


Select a day, month and year to search on. This will restrict your searches to one day only.


Select a day, month and year to search on. This will restrict your searches to all days since the one selected to date.


Select two sets of day, month and years to search between. This will restrict your searches between the two sets of dates given.

Results Format

How would you like to order the results?

In date order (most recent entry first)
This will return a hit list of relevant documents to you with the most recent first. It may not be the most relevant, but will be the newest.

In order of relevance
This will order your Hit List with the most relevant document at the top. Relevance is a rating of how well the contents of each document in the result set match the search terms and conditions you have selected to perform the search.  When determining relevance the search engine takes into account the following:

Distribution of the terms across all documents, so common terms will have a lower weighting than less common search terms
The number of times the search terms occur within the documents, so documents containing the search terms a number of times will be ranked higher than those which contain one or a few instances.

Documents with the highest search term relevancy and frequency will be displayed first. 


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Information about Pdf Readers

This page sets out information about Pdf Readers and how to use them as the website does have a lot of Pdf material such as Research Papers and Library Notes which require certain software to be on users' computers.