When searching full text databases like Hathi Trust or the U. S. Congressional Serial Set,
- Enclose names and phrases in quotes. For example,
“George Washington Smith” will get better results than George Washington Smith.
- Use the “OR” operator to string together name variants. For example,
“George Washington Smith” OR “George W. Smith” OR “G. W. Smith” OR “Smith, G. W.”
- Find out if proximity operators are offered in the database. In the Readex version of the U. S. Congressional Serial Set, an operator like NEAR will allow you to search for certain words or phrases near other ones. For example,“George W. Smith” NEAR15 “St. Louis”
- Use the parenthesis to build search strings if you want to limit /focus your results:
(“George Washington Smith” OR “George W. Smith” OR “G. W. Smith” OR “Smith, G. W.”) NEAR15 (Missouri or “Mo.”)
- Understand the limits of digital scanning and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Here is some OCR from Hathi Trust. Notice how it cut a name in half with a hyphen:
"…Farr, who became private secretary to Governors Hart-ranft and Hoyt..."
Universal tip: To make words and images bigger on your screen, hold down the Control key and then press the + key. Control with the minus key reverses the effect.