How can I get more out of searching with WWO?

The searches that we’re all familiar with are simple word searches, where you’re searching for all occurrences of a given word in a text or a collection of texts. In WWO, when you do a word search, by default the search tool will search all of the WWO texts and will give you all the search results that match your word exactly. This may be exactly what you want, but in some cases (like very common words) you may get so many hits that the list of results is hard to make sense of. If so, there are several things you can do to get more targeted results, or to view your results in a more revealing way.

Focus on specific texts: To fine-tune your search, first think about whether you’re interested in a specific set of texts. If your research is focused on texts written between 1800 and 1815, it doesn’t make sense to include any pre-1800 texts in your search. You can narrow your search to specific authors, titles, or time periods by choosing the “Advanced” search option in the search pane. This option can be used on its own, to find all the texts published in a given time period or by a given author, and it can also be used in combination with a word search, to find all the instances of a given word or phrase within a specific time period or set of texts. Another way to narrow your search is by using the “Date” and “Genre” filters in the search pane. To select a facet and see possible subsets, simply click on it. A range of dates can also be selected using the interactive timeline feature which separates the results and full text panes. Select a subset of dates using the timeline by clicking and dragging with your mouse to highlight the desired range.

Think about spelling: It’s also important to remember that spelling practices changed a great deal during the 400 years covered in WWO. If you are searching for the word “marriage”, you won’t necessarily get results from texts that use the spelling “maryage”. Similarly, the search won’t automatically include variations such as plurals or verb endings. If you want to include alternate spellings (like “maryage”, “mariage”, and “marriages”), you need to include a wildcard in your search. For example, if you type “mar*age*” in the search box, it will find marriage, mariage, maryage, mariages, marriages, and so forth.