ESTC Searchable indexes and the Expert search option

Page Contents

Index categories

Proximity Operations (NEAR and WITHIN operators)

Search syntax (Basic searches, Boolean and proximity operations, combined searches)

Truncation, wildcards and literals

Pseudo Indexes table

Words Indexes table

Fields indexes table

Our STAR WEB interface to the ESTC gives you almost full access to a whole series of indexing capabilities, beyond the simple ones that are represented by the search page options. Those rich features can be exploited by checking the Expert search box by the Keyword search line. Once you have checked the Expert search box, you can formulate complex Boolean and proximity searches that call upon combinations of dozens of indexes.

While more flexible, expert searching is more complex and requires a detailed knowledge of both existing indexes and search syntax for our system. It is to be used as a last option, after the simple search strategies have failed to produce the result you expect. However, reading this page can give you useful insights and tips that can sometimes save a lot of time and effort. It is up to you to find the right balance for your needs.

Back to CBSR's Homepage
Back to the ESTC Log In Page
Return to topic list

Index categories

There are three main categories of indexes available:

Real indexes (i.e. Fields and Words) are defined as a combination of input field and subfield source, basic indexing rule, and proximity options. In the case of subfields, it is possible to create an index with a selective range of subfields, for instance only subfield a, or subfields a and b, leaving out subfield c. Pseudo indexes are dependent upon the real indexes that compose them. For isntance, if you have a pseudo index called "Title", that index may depend upon two other indexes, one that indexes the subfield a of the 245 using the Fields basic rule, and one that indexes every word in the 245 regardless of subfield location.

I provide tables below (see ESTC Pseudo Indexes, ESTC Words Indexes, ESTC Fields Indexes) detailing each available index for our interface to the ESTC as a reference.

As a matter of convention, index names that end with a "W" (like 100W) are word indexes, and the ones that end with an F are field indexes (600F). Additionally, index names that end wth "ALL" often refer to a pseudo index that combines both word and field indexing. However, it is always best to refer to the tables to be sure.

Return to the top of the page.

Proximity Operations

In addition to the basic indexing rules, an index can be modified to provide the user proximity operations. This allows you to specify for instance that you are searching for two terms in the same occurence of a repeating field. The index can even be set to keep track of terms that are within the same sentence or paragraph, or even at a certain distance from each other. In the list of options given in the index tables below (see ESTC Pseudo Indexes, ESTC Words Indexes, ESTC Fields Indexes):

Return to the top of the page.

Search syntax

Our STAR interface supports a rich and flexible range of searching strategies and options that allow you to use the full capability of the indexing options detailed above.

ALL OPERATORS ARE CASE INSENSITIVE: however I will use capital letters below to make the syntax clearer

Basic search

A basic search can done by giving the name of the index, followed by an equal sign, followed by the search term itself:

Example: 100ALL = Voltaire
Example: 100F=Milton, John

BOOLEAN syntax

Basic searches be combined according with the familiar BOOLean operators: AND, OR, AND NOT and OR NOT. These operators can be used either with the same index or with different indexes:

Example: 100ALL=Milton AND John
Example: 100F=Milton, John* AND PUBCITY=Paris
Example: 100ALL=Milton AND TI=(Paradise OR regained)

Proximity searches

The most common proximity operator is the NEAR operator. This is equivalent to the BOOLean AND opertor together with the restrictions included in the definition of the index itself. For instance, the 650 fields index is with the field "Occurence" options, that indexes every subfield starting at the beginning.

Example: 650=catholic* NEAR apologetic*

In this case, the search will retrieve all records that have at least one occurence of the 650 input field that contains two subfields one beginning with "Catholic", the other with "apologetic".

Example: 500=wing NEAR deprecated

The 500 is a words index, that has the options ADJacent, and Occurence: This will retrieve a record in which the two words occur in the same occurence of the 500 data field.

If you want to specify that the two words "wing" and "deprecated" should be not only contained within the same occurence, but also close to each other, in the same sentence, you would use the syntax:

Example: 500=wing W/S deprecated

The W/S operator means "within the same sentence".

If you want the two words to be not only in the same sentence but no further from each other than 4 other words, you would use:

Example: 500=wing W/4 deprecated

In this case, W/4 means "within four words". You can replace the 4 with any number: w/2, w/9, etc.

Proximity and BOOLean operators can be combined:

Example: 100ALL=(Milton NEAR John) AND TI=((paradise w/2 regained) OR (paradise W/S lost))
Example: TI=(paradise NEAR lost) AND NOT 100ALL=(Milton OR Voltaire)

As shown in the last example, parentheses can be used to resolve logical ambiguities.

Searching for blank fields

You can search for empty fields with the syntax: "".

Example: NOT 100ALL=""

This will retrieve all records that have an author's field.

Return to the top of the page.

Truncation, wildcards, and literals


Truncation, symbolised by an asterisk, is most useful with Fields indexes, that require an exact match of a string of characters usually up to a maximum of 69.

The "600f" index for instance is built using the fields rule up to a maximum of 25 characters. An index key looks like this:


In order to find that key you must specify all of it and only all of it:

Example: 600F=00 |A JOHN, |C KING OF EN

Another index, the 600FF is built similarly but up to a maximum limit of 69 characters. An index key for the same item as above looks like:

600FF   00 |A JOHN, |C KING OF ENGLAND, |D 1167-1216 |V DRAMA.

If you want to limit your search to 600s that include the dates, but does not care about anything after that, you could use the syntax:

600FF=600FF   00 |A JOHN, |C KING OF ENGLAND, |D 1167-1216*

Truncation can also be used with words indexes:

Example: 100W=Volta*

Forward truncation

Forward truncation is possible, simply by placing the asterisk at the beginning of the search string:

100ALL=*ilton NEAR Paris

It can be however extremely slow, and is not recommended unless absolutely necessary.


Wildcards, represented by a question mark,  allow you to skip a character in a search term:

Example: TI=Merc?ri?s

This retrieves titles including the words: Mercurius, Mercvrius, Mercurivs, or Mercvrivs, as well as Merctrizs.


Certain words and characters have a syntactic meaning that sometimes clashes with the search string itself:

Example: TI=Tintin and Snow-White: An unfulfilled love story, or, "My life as a snow flake", by P**** Hilton.

In this case, the words AND and OR, and the quotation and asterisk characters would throw the search engine in utter confusion.

The best way to resolve word ambiguities is to place the search string in quotes:

Example: 245="Ladies AND gentlemen of the jury, I am NOT guilty"*

The truncation sign can then be placed at the end of the quotes.

To resolve character ambiguities you can also use the escape character: a single quote. For instance, if you want to search for a name that includes quotation marks:

Example:  100ALL=joe NEAR "'"killer shark'"" NEAR smith

A single quote can be used to escape a single quote:

Example: l''ancien testament

Return to the top of the page.

ESTC Pseudo Indexes

Index name Rule Input fields indexes
001ALL Pseudo 001 ZZ001
BI Pseudo 100W 110W 130W 240W 245W 246W PUB PUBCITY 111 700W 730W 710W 250W 740W
CA Pseudo 110 110W 710W 710
ME Pseudo 100W 110W
MLANG Pseudo 8LANG 041A 546 KLANG
NAME Pseudo 100W 100 700W 700
NOTES Pseudo 500 510 509 CPN
RTI Pseudo 246W 247W 760ST 762ST 770ST 772ST 773ST 775ST 776ST 780ST 785ST 787ST
SERIES Pseudo 830
SUB Pseudo 600W 610W 611W 630W 650W 651W 653W 655W 600 6 10 611 630 650 651 653 655
SUBF Pseudo 600 610 611 630 650 651 653 655
SUBW Pseudo 600W 610W 611W 630W 650W 651W 653W 655W
TI Pseudo 130W 210W 240W 245W 246W 730W 740W
TITLE Pseudo 130W 210W 240W 245W 246W 730W 740W
WEBAU Pseudo 100ALL 110ALL 700ALL 710ALL
WEBKW Pseudo 500 520 505 505E 545 501 502 504 506 507 50 8 510 511 513 515 516 618 521 522 524 525 530 533 534 535 536 538 540 541 544 546 547 550 555 556 56 1 562 565 567 580 581 582 583 584 585 586 590
WEBTI Pseudo 222W 240ALL 242ALL 245ALL 246ALL 247ALL 440 W 490W 730ALL 740ALL 830W
ZZTIT Pseudo ZZ240 ZZ245 ZZ246

Return to the top of the page.

ESTC Words indexes

Rule Subfields Proximity Input fields
020 Words acz O 020
022 Words ayz O 022
028B Words b - 028
035W Words - O 035
040W Words abcde - 040
049 Words ALL - 049
080W Words _ - 080
090 Words ALL - 090
095 Words ALL - 095
100ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 100
100W Words a ADJ O S 100
110ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 110
110W Words ab ADJ O S 110
111ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 111
130ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 130
130W Words a ADJ 130
210W Words a ADJ 210
211W Words a ADJ 211
240ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 240
240W Words ALL ADJ 240
242ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 242
243ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 243
245ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 245
245W Words ALL ADJ 245
246ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 246
246W Words ALL ADJ O 246
247ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 247
250W Words a - 250
300 Words abce ADJ O 300
310 Words ab - 310
315 Words ab - 315
321 Words _ab - 321
340 Words acdefli - 340
362 Words a - 362
500 Words a ADJ O 500
509 Words a O 509
510 Words ac ADJ O 510
511 Words a ADJ 511
521 Words ALL ADJ 521
530 Words a - 530
533 Words ALL ADJ O 533
550 Words a ADJ O 550
555 Words abcd ADJ O 555
580 Words a ADJ O 580
585 Words a3 ADJ O 585
586 Words a3 ADJ O 586
600W Words ALL ADJ O S 600
610W Words ALL ADJ O S 610
611W Words ALL ADJ O S 611
630W Words ALL ADJ O S 630
650W Words ALL ADJ O S 650
651W Words ALL ADJ O S 651
653W Words ALL ADJ O S 653
654W Words ALL ADJ O S 654
655W Words ALL ADJ O S 655
700ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 700
700W Words a ADJ O S 700
710ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 710
710W Words abc ADJ O S 710
711W Words ab ADJ O S 711
730ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 730
730W Words a - 730
740ALL Words ALL ADJ O S 740
740W Words a - 740
752D Words d ADJ O 752
752W Words abcd ADJ O S 752
754W Words a2 ADJ O S 754
755W Words axyz ADJ O S 755
760 Words ALL ADJ 760
760ST Words st ADJ 760
762 Words ALL ADJ 762
762ST Words st ADJ 762
765 Words ALL ADJ 765
767 Words ALL ADJ 767
770 Words ALL ADJ 770
770ST Words st ADJ 770
772 Words ALL ADJ 772
772ST Words st ADJ 772
773 Words ALL ADJ 773
773ST Words st ADJ 773
775 Words ALL ADJ 775
775ST Words st ADJ 775
776 Words ALL ADJ 776
776ST Words st ADJ 776
777 Words ALL ADJ 777
780 Words ALL ADJ 780
780ST Words st ADJ 780
785 Words ALL ADJ 785
785ST Words st ADJ 785
787 Words ALL ADJ 787
787ST Words st ADJ 787
CPN Words z O ADJ 852
LEADER Words tbef - LDR
PUB Words b ADJ O S 260
PUBCITY Words a ADJ O S 260
PUBDATE Words c O 260
SMKW Words j O ADJ 852
SN Words ab - 010

Return to the top of the page.

ESTC Fields Indexes

Rule Subfields Proximity Input fields
001 Fields - - 001
010 Fields ab - 010
011 Fields a - 011
025 Fields a - 025
027 Fields a - 027
028 Fields - - 028
030 Fields a - 030
032 Fields a - 032
035 Fields a O 035
040 Fields abcde - 040
040D Fields d - 040
041 Fields ALL - S041
043 Fields a - S043
044 Fields a - S044
045 Fields - - 045
047 Fields a - 047
048 Fields ab - 048
072 Fields ax - 072
074 Fields - O 074
080 Fields a - 080
100 Fields ALL - 100
100F Fields - O 100
100K Fields k/r - 100
110 Fields ab O ADJ 110
110F Fields - O 110
130 Fields a - 130
130F Fields - O 130
210 Fields a - 210
210F Fields - O 210
211 Fields a - 211
239 Fields a O 239
240 Fields _a - 240
240F Fields - O 240
242 Fields a - 242
243 Fields a - 243
243F Fields - O 243
245 Fields _a - 245
246 Fields _a - 246
246F Fields - O 246
246L Fields l/r O 246
250 Fields - - 250
259 Fields ALL O 259
260 Fields _abcefg ADJ O S 260
269 Fields - O 269
300A Fields a/r - 300
350 Fields - - 350
362F Fields a - 362
500F Fields - O 500
509F Fields a O 509
510C Fields c/r O 510
510F Fields ALL O 510
510FF Fields - O 510
511C Fields c/r O 511
533F Fields f/r O 533
539 Fields a - 539
600 Fields ALL O 600
600F Fields - O 600
600FF Fields - O 600
600K Fields k/r O 600
600SV Fields v/r O S 600
600SX Fields x/r O S 600
610 Fields ALL O 610
610F Fields - O 610
610FF Fields - O 610
610SV Fields v/r O S 610
610SX Fields x/r O S 610
611 Fields ALL O 611
630 Fields ALL O 630
630F Fields - O 630
630FF Fields - O 630
630SV Fields v/r O S 630
630SX Fields x/r O S 630
650 Fields ALL O 650
650F Fields - O 650
650FF Fields - O 650
650SV Fields v/r O S 650
650SX Fields x/r O S 650
651 Fields ALL O 651
651FF Fields - O 651
651SV Fields v/r O S 651
651SX Fields x/r O S 651
653 Fields ALL O 653
654 Fields ALL O 654
655 Fields ALL O 655
700 Fields a - 700
700F Fields - O 700
700K Fields k/r O 700
700SE Fields e O 700
710 Fields ab O 710
710F Fields - O 710
711 Fields ab O 711
711F Fields - O 711
730 Fields a - 730
730F Fields - O 730
739 Fields a O 739
740 Fields a - 740
740F Fields - O 740
752 Fields abcd O 752
753 Fields - - 753
754 Fields a2 O 754
755 Fields axyz O 755
850 Fields ALL O ADJ 850
856 Fields - O 856
960 Fields a O 960
960F Fields - O 960
967A Fields a - 967
998 Fields - O 998
BDATE Fields - - BDATE
COUNTY Fields c - 752 COUNT
CTRY Fields - - CTRY
EDATE Fields - - EDATE
EXTENT Fields a S 300
FORMAT Fields - - FORM
LANG Fields - - LANG
LIB Fields l/r O 852
REG Fields r ADJ O 852
SMK Fields j/r O 852
STAT Fields - O STAT
STATE Fields b - 752 ST
TYPE Fields t - LDR
UP Fields _D - UP
VER Fields v O ADJ 852
XDATE Fields - - XDATE

Return to the top of the page.
Go to previous topic: Finding Library Information
Return to topic list