Basic search help
Civilian Board of Contract Appeals
~ Basic Search Help ~

 

Search is simple: just type whatever comes to mind in the search box and click the Search button.

Most of the time, you'll find exactly what you're looking for with just a basic query (the word or phrase you search for). However, the following tips can help you make the most of your searches. Throughout the article, we'll use square brackets [ ] to signal a search query, so [ black and white ] is one query, while [ black ] and [ white ] are two separate queries.For common searches, separate the search terms with a semicolon.  Each successive search term will further limit your results.  The terms do not have to appear together in the following examples as long as both terms appear in the same document it will be returned by the search.

Search Examples:

 

[Relo]    will give you all the RELO cases (or [Trav] for travel cases)
[Relo;James]    will give you all the RELO cases including the word “James”
[Relo;James;Thomas]    will give you all the RELO cases including “James” and “Thomas”
[Relo;James;Thomas;KY]    will give you all the RELO cases including “James” “Thomas” and “KY”

 

Some basic facts

  • Every word matters. Generally, all the words you put in the query will be used.
  • Search is not case sensitive. A search for [ new york times ] is the same as a search for [ New York Times ].
  • Generally, punctuation is ignored, including @#$%^&*()=+[]\ and other special characters.

    To make sure that your CBCA searches return the most relevant results, there are some
    exceptions to the rules above.

Tips for better searches

  • Keep it simple. If you're looking for a particular decision, just enter its name, or as much of its name as you can recall. If you're looking for a particular Appeal, ISDA, Relocation, FEMA, FCIC, Rate or Travel case, start with its name. Most queries do not require advanced operators or unusual syntax. Simple is good.

  • Think how the page you are looking for will be written. A search engine is not a human, it is a program that matches the words you give to pages on the web. Use the words that are most likely to appear on the page. For example, instead of saying [INTERIOR], say [DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR ], because that's the term a decision page will use. The query [ on what date are cases considered filed late? ] is very clear to a person, but the document that gives the answer may not have those words. Instead, use the query [ cases filed late ] or even just [ cases filed ], because that is probably what the right page will say.

  • Describe what you need with as few terms as possible. The goal of each word in a query is to focus it further. Since all words are used, each additional word limits the results. If you limit too much, you will miss a lot of useful information. The main advantage to starting with fewer keywords is that, if you don't get what you need, the results will likely give you a good indication of what additional words are needed to refine your results on the next search. For example, [Appeal Maryland] is a simple way to find the Appeals in Maryland and it is likely to give better results than the longer [Appeal Maryland during the year of 2005].

  • Choose descriptive words. The more unique the word is the more likely you are to get relevant results. Words that are not very descriptive, like 'document,' 'website,' 'company,' or 'info,' are usually not needed. Keep in mind, however, that even if the word has the correct meaning but it is not the one most people use; it may not match the pages you need. For example, [ celebrity ringtones ] is more descriptive and specific than [ celebrity sounds ].

The search results page

CBCA's goal is to provide you with results that are clear and easy to read. A basic search result will include a title that links to the webpage, a short description or an actual excerpt from the webpage, and the page's URL.

More Search Tips

This document will highlight the more advanced features of CBCA Web Search. Have in mind though that even very advanced searchers, such as the members of the search group at CBCA, use these features less than 5% of the time. Basic simple search is often enough. As always, we use square brackets [ ] to denote queries, so [ to be or not to be ] is an example of a query; [ to be ] or [ not to be ] are two examples of queries.

  • Phrase search ("")
    By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling CBCA to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. CBCA already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ "Alexander Bell" ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.

  • Terms you want to exclude (-)
    Attaching a minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space. For example, in the query [ anti-virus software ], the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will not be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; whereas the query [ anti-virus -software ] will search for the words 'anti-virus' but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the - sign in front of all of them, for example [ jaguar -cars -football -os ].

  • Fill in the blanks (*)
    The *, or wildcard, is a little-known feature that can be very powerful. If you include * within a query, it tells CBCA to try to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches. For example, the search [ CBCA * ] will give you results about many of CBCA's decisions (go to next page and next page -- we have many decisions). The query [ Obama voted * on the * bill ] will give you stories about different votes on different bills. Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words.

  • Search exactly as is (+)
    CBCA employs synonyms automatically, so that it finds pages that mention, for example, childcare for the query [ child care ] (with a space), or California history for the query [ ca history ]. But sometimes CBCA helps out a little too much and gives you a synonym when you don't really want it. By attaching a + immediately before a word (remember, don't add a space after the +), you are telling CBCA to match that word precisely as you typed it. Putting double quotes around a single word will do the same thing.

  • The OR operator
    CBCA's default behavior is to consider all the words in a search. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type 'OR' in ALL CAPS). For example, [ San Francisco Giants 2004 OR 2005 ] will give you results about either one of these years, whereas [ San Francisco Giants 2004 2005 ] (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page. The symbol | can be substituted for OR. (The AND operator, by the way, is the default, so it is not needed.)

Exceptions

Search is rarely absolute. Search engines use a variety of techniques to imitate how people think and to approximate their behavior. As a result, most rules have exceptions. For example, the query [ for better or for worse ] will not be interpreted by CBCA as an OR query, but as a phrase that matches a  comic strip. CBCA will show calculator results for the query [ 34 * 87 ] rather than use the 'Fill in the blanks' operator. Both cases follow the obvious intent of the query. Here is a list of exceptions to some of the rules and guidelines that were mentioned.

Exceptions to 'Every word matters'

  • Words that are commonly used, like 'the,' 'a,' and 'for,' are usually ignored (these are called stop words). But there are even exceptions to this exception. The search [ the who ] likely refers to the band; the query [ who ] probably refers to the World Health Organization -- CBCA will not ignore the word 'the' in the first query.

  • Synonyms might replace some words in your original query. (Adding + before a word disables synonyms.)

  • A particular word might not appear on a page in your results if there is sufficient other evidence that the page is relevant. The evidence might come from language analysis that CBCA has done or many other sources. For example, the query [ overhead view of the bellagio pool ] will give you nice overhead pictures from pages that do not include the word 'overhead.'

Punctuation that is not ignored