Keyword searching in RecordSearch Advanced search screens – Fact sheet 14

What is a keyword search?

A keyword search is a search for a word, words or phrase in the title or description of a record item, series, agency or depositor (for example, Barton, Cyclone Tracy or Snowy Mountains Scheme). Keyword searches are the quickest and easiest way to search for records on a particular subject, person, place or event.

What information can RecordSearch search?

Titles and descriptive information about items, series, agencies, persons and organisations can all be searched. You can use a Basic search for items or an Advanced search which offers more search options. These tips cover searching on the Advanced search screens. For undertaking a Basic search for items, see the 'Help' text in RecordSearch.

Keyword search tips

Wildcard searches

  • find variations of a keyword by entering the common stem of the word followed by an asterisk eg Malay* will find Malay, Malaya, Malayan, Malaysia and Malaysian
  • enter more characters before an asterisk for more precise searching eg use Malay* (see example above) rather than Mal* which will find malaria, Malay, Malaya, Malcolm, male, Malta, Malvern etc
  • find alternative spellings in one search by entering the alternative spellings eg naturalisation naturalization, and select the search option any words (see below)


  • to find an acronym enter the string with and without full stops eg CSIRO C.S.I.R.O. and select the search option any words (see below)


  • do not use punctuation or symbols such as + = # ? ( ) [ ] or %
  • full stops, apostrophes and slashes can be used eg C.S.I.R.O., O'Brien or 11/44 Infantry Battalion


  • include hyphens eg use post-war not post war, Governor-General not Governor General


  • use full uppercase or full lowercase, or in any combination – the result is the same

Single letters

  • use single letters (or numbers) with an additional term eg A McKenzie, R J Ewing, 7 Battalion or N275920 Rowell

Using more than one keyword

Searching for all words, any words or phrases

If using two or more keywords be sure to select the correct search option (all words, any words or exact phrase) from the drop-down menu. For example, for the keywords civil defence

  • all words (the default setting) will only find records that include both civil and defence, though they may be separated by other words
  • any words will find records that include either civil or defence or both, including records where they are separated by other words
  • exact phrase will only find records that include both civil and defence in that exact order, with no other words between.

Keyword order

  • Keyword order is only important in exact phrase searches. An all words search entered as malaria Queensland (ie a search for records containing both these words) will find the same number of items regardless of the order of the words.
  • In an exact phrase search on proper names such as Alice Springs or Joint Intelligence Bureau the words must be entered in the exact order that they appear in the name.

Searching for plurals, synonyms and related terms

Singular/plural forms

  • enter the singular and plural forms (eg internee internees) as an any word search
  • enter the stem followed by an asterisk (eg internee*). Note that for some keyword stems, records unrelated to the keyword will be retrieved

Synonyms and related terms

  • enter all possible synonyms and related terms eg Antarctic and Antarctica or Antarctic*;nuclear and atomic; Sino, Chinese and China as an any word search
  • remember that spelling and usage changes eg Soeharto vs Suharto; Roumania vs Romania; Freemantle vs Fremantle; communist vs communistic
  • remember that names of countries and territories change eg the Australian Capital Territory was formerly the Federal Capital Territory; Argentina was known as The Argentine; Indonesia was formerly the Netherlands East Indies and East Indies

For more information

Read the 'Help' text available in RecordSearch. See also:

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