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Search Help

Basic Search Help
Perform a Search
Narrow Results
View the Number of Results at a Glance
Order Select Publications Online
Filter Results for Full-Text Publications
Advanced Search Help
Perform a Search
Search the Criminal Justice Events Calendar
Search the NCJRS Abstracts Database
Narrow Results
View the Number of Results at a Glance
Order Select Publications Online
Filter Results for Full-Text Publications
Hints on Searching the NCJRS Web Site
What I am searching
Choosing a Query Type: Boolean, Concept, or Pattern Searching
Wildcard and Proximity Searching
If You Find Too Much
If You Find Too Little
How Documents are Found, Ranked, and Displayed
Content Types

Basic Search Help

Perform a Search

To perform a keyword search across the entire site and select Federal justice Web pages, type the word or words that describe your topic into the open search box. Select go or press enter. Enclose phrases in quotes. For example:

gangs

"drug court"

Narrow Results

Results will be sorted by content type. Narrow your results further by selecting the type of information you wish to view, e.g., Publications (Full Text), Publications (Abstracts Only), Federal Justice Web Pages, Q&A, Related Links, or Conferences.

View the Number of Results at a Glance

The number of results per content type is shown on the right of the search results page.

Order Select Publications Online

A shopping cart icon order print copy appears for items available for online ordering. An "order photocopy" order photocopyicon appears for results that are not available for hardcopy ordering, but may be ordered through NCJRS photocopy services.

Filter Results for Full-Text Publications

Filter results of a full-text publication search by selecting specific dimensions of information you wish to view relevant to the publications (e.g. Crime Type, Geography, Language, Demographics, or Information Type). Selecting more types of information narrows your results further.

Filter your search by:

  • Crime Type
  • Geography
  • Language
  • Demographics
  • Information Type

Advanced Search Help

Perform a Search

Perform a keyword search across the entire site by following these steps:

  • Select the content type.
  • Select from a Boolean, concept or pattern search.
  • Select the number of search results to return.
  • Enter a keyword(s)
    Enclose phrases in quotes. For example:
    gangs
    "drug court"
  • Select “Go” or press enter.

Search the Criminal Justice Events Calendar

To search for an event, visit the Criminal Justice Events search page and select the criteria that you would like to search by. Options include searching by date, sponsoring organization, classification (or topic), location (within the United States and internationally), and a keyword search. Once you have selected your criteria, click the search button to get your results. For more tips on searching for events, visit the Criminal Justice Events help page.

Search the NCJRS Abstracts Database

Use the NCJRS Abstracts Database Online Tutorial to learn more about how to search the Database. Specific information on Field Searches, General Search capabilities, Limiting searches by date, search types, displaying or downloading your results, how results are found and additional search techniques are available.

Narrow Results

Results will be sorted by content type. Narrow your results further by selecting the type of information you wish to view, e.g., Publications (Full Text), Publications (Abstracts Only), Federal Justice Web Pages, Q&A, Related Links, or Conferences.

View the Number of Results at a Glance

The number of results per content type is shown on the right of the search results page.

Order Select Publications Online

An "Order Print Copy" image order print copy appears for items available for online ordering. An "Order Photocopy" image order photocopy appears for results that are not available for hardcopy ordering, but may be ordered through NCJRS photocopy services.

Filter Results for Full-Text Publications

Filter results of a full-text publication search by selecting specific dimensions of information you wish to view relevant to the publications (e.g., Crime Type, Geography, Language, Demographics, or Information Type). Selecting more types of information narrows your results further.

Filter your search by:

  • Crime Type
  • Geography
  • Language
  • Demographics
  • Information Type

Hints on Searching the NCJRS Web Site

What I am searching

The basic search performs a concept search of the entire NCJRS Web site including more than 3,500 Full Text Publications, 180,000 summaries of publications from the NCJRS Abstracts Database, related links, over 500 questions and answers from the NCJRS knowledge base, conferences, and Federal Justice Web pages including the agencies of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office on Violence Against Women, National Institute of Corrections, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness/Office for Domestic Preparedness.

Choosing a Query Type: Boolean, Concept, or Pattern Searching

A Boolean search finds exactly the words you typed and allows you to combine terms with and, or and not as well as parentheses ( ). For example, if you are searching for information on HIV/AIDS in correctional facilities you could enter:

(AIDS or HIV) and (correctional or prison or jail)

A Concept search will look for the words and phrases you typed as well as related concepts.

A Pattern search will look for the words you typed as well as words with a similar spelling; this is useful when you are not sure how to spell a word or a person's name.

Wildcard and Proximity Searching

To search on a word root with a variety of endings, use the * . For example, correction* will find the words correction, corrections, or correctional . Also use the * to allow for plurals: for example, type juvenile* to find the words juvenile or juveniles.

You can also search for words to be found within a specified number of words of each other. The pattern to follow is:

word1 word2 within N

This means that word1 must be found within N words of word2.

for example

mothers incarcerated within 10

If You Find Too Much

  • Make your wording more specific. Remember that all of the publications on the Site deal with criminal justice, so including words like crime or justice in your search will bring back too much.
  • Choose a Boolean search instead of a Concept search by using the Advanced Search. A Boolean search will find all of the terms you type in, while a Concept search may find documents which contain only some of the terms you typed, or may find words that are related but not exactly what you typed.

If You Find Too Little

  • Change one of the terms to a broader term. For example, replace juvenile gangs with gangs .
  • Try to think of synonyms or related words and combine them with OR, selecting a Boolean search. For example:
    • death penalty or capital punishment
    • (police or law enforcement) and California
    • (narcotics or drugs) and (adolescents or juveniles)
  • Look for misspellings in the terms you have entered.

How Documents are Found, Ranked, and Displayed

Documents are located based on the relevance criteria described below, and are displayed to the user from highest relevance to lowest up to a limit of 500 documents.

Results of Boolean Searches. A Boolean search finds exactly the words you typed. If the word, words, or combination of words is found anywhere in a document, that document is included in the search results. Since the match is perfect, the results of a Boolean search are always 100%.

Results of Concept and Pattern Searches. As a first step, the search simply looks for the existence or absence of query words or related terms in the document. The rank calculation process takes into account various factors - each factor adds a certain relative "weight" to the document. Added together, these weights determine a document's relevance. The "weights" are determined by the following factors:

  • Completeness: The greater the number of query words (either exactly or by reference), the higher the weight. A relevant document should contain at least one term or related term for each word in the query. If the document contains only a fraction of the original words, then the maximum rank of the document is equal to this fraction. For example, if the document contains only 3 out of the 4 original terms in the query, then its maximum rank is 75%. Related terms contribute less weight than the original (exact) words. If your query consists of three query terms, a document containing one instance of each of the three terms will be ranked higher than a document containing 100 instances of one of the query terms.
  • Contextual Evidence: The greater the number of related terms, the higher the weight. Words are supported by their related terms. If a document contains a word and its related terms, the word is given a higher weight because it's surrounded by supporting evidence. For example, the word "charge" near the words "credit," "debt," and "card" is more likely to mean "charge card" than to mean "ward," "battery energy," or "to assign a task."
  • Semantic Distance: The more closely related the terms, the higher the weight. For example, words that are synonyms of each other are more closely related than words that are defined as antonyms of one another. This is used to compute the amount of contextual evidence that supports a word. The closer the terms are in relationship to the query words, the more weight they are given.

To further refine the relevance, the search looks at the physical location of query words and related terms within the document, as well as the total number of terms. By default, a document's rank is calculated using a formula that equally combines the factors described below:

  • Proximity: The closer together the query words and related terms within the document, the greater the weight. A document is judged more relevant if it contains related terms that occur close together, preferably in the same sentence or paragraph. The system computes a factor for physical proximity, which is greatest for adjacent terms, and lessens as terms become increasingly distant (physically) from each other. Thus, documents with many hits close together are ranked higher than documents where those same hits are present, but scattered very far apart.
  • Hit Density: The greater the ratio of query words and related terms to the total number of words in the document, the greater the weight. A document is judged more relevant if a large number of the total number of words in it are query words or related terms. Thus, short documents with many hits are ranked higher than longer documents where those same hits are present.

Content Types