Using the Search screen

Contents

This section of the screen allows you to identify the information we will use to search for the question(s) and answer(s) you would like to view.

Question Number

If you know the number of the question you would like to search for enter it in the Question Number field. The reference is in the format of Q followed by a number - for example Q456. The 'Q' can be omitted if required.

There is no need to change any other information on the screen - just click the search button and, if the question exists, it will be displayed.

Wildcards - if you want to display a range of questions rather than find a single question you can include a 'wildcard' in the question number. A wildcard is a character which replaces one or more other characters in your search. '%' replaces any number of characters and '_' replaces one only. For example:

  • If you search for question Q31 then only one question and answer will be returned and will be displayed immediately.
  • If you search for Q3% then any questions with a reference which starts with Q3 will be returned - for example Q31, Q302, Q327 etc.
  • If you search for Q3_ then any questions with a reference which starts with Q3 and has up to one additional character will be returned - for example Q31, Q32, Q33, etc. but not Q315

You must enter ‘Q’ before the number and wildcard. It will display no results if it is omitted.

Search Text

If you do not know the number of the question you would like to search for then enter some text which will help you to find what you are looking for. This may be text which you think will appear in either the question or the answer.

Some hints:

  • We will ignore any punctuation - it will be replaced with a space when searching.
  • If you are searching for a hyphenated phrase (for example ’go-ped’) you are more likely to find what you are looking for if you omit the hyphen (i.e. enter ’go ped’)
  • Except in an 'exact phrase' search (see below) we will ignore common short words such as 'the' and 'and' as they appear too often and will cause too many results to be returned.
  • Try to use words which will return the information you are looking for while not returning too many others. For example if you are interested in speeding fines then do not search for 'speeding', which will bring back lots of results. Try searching for All Words and enter 'speeding fine' which will bring back a much smaller list of documents.

This section of the screen allows you to specify how we use the information you have provided to carry out the search.

If you select 'The exact phrase appears in the document' we will search for exactly the words you have entered in exactly the same order. For example if you search for ‘Parking offence' we will display only questions or answers which include exactly that phrase. This option should only be used if you are sure of the exact phrase.

If you select 'All of the words appear in the document' we will ignore any common short words such as 'and' and 'the', as they appear in too many documents, and we will display any questions and answers which contain all of the other words you have entered. For example if you search for 'parking offence and fine' we will display any questions which include the word 'parking' and the word 'offence' and the word 'fine' but they may not be related to each other at all. For example it would display any question or answer which includes that exact phrase but would also display a question or answer which contains the following: ‘A non-endorsable ticket means that you will receive a £50 fine (some are higher) but do not get any points on your licence. Certain parking offences are eligible for a £30 non-endorsable ticket.’ You should try to select your words to match your specific search requirements as closely as possible. This option should be used whenever you do not know the exact phrase you are looking for.

If you select 'Any one or more of the words appear in the document' we will ignore any common short words such as 'and' and 'the', as they appear in too many documents, and we will display any question or answer which contains ANY of the other words you have entered. For example if you search for ”parking offences and fines” we will display any questions which include any of those words i.e. all questions which include the word 'parking', all questions which include the word 'offences' and all questions which include the word ‘fines’. As you can imagine that may result in a very long list of questions. This option is best used when you have a relatively unusual word and wish to search for alternatives. For example if you wanted to find out what the rules were for importing a particular animal and you are not sure what the specific animal would be called in the questions and answers you could enter 'aardvark anteater' in the text field and select this option. It would then display any question or answer which contains either of those words.

NOTE - plurals are not automatically included in search results so you may find that if you do not find what you want using the singular version of the word then you may be successful if you search again using the plural.

This section of the screen allows you to choose how many documents will be displayed.

If you choose a low number the screen will be displayed more quickly but, if there are a lot of questions returned, you may need to page through a number of screens to find the question you want. If you choose a higher number the screen will be displayed slightly more slowly but you will have more questions displayed on one screen from which you can make your selection. The number of times you need to page forwards and backwards between screens will be reduced.

This section of the screen allows you to limit where in the system you search for your questions.

Questions in the system are assigned to 'categories'. At the top of the Home page is an A to Z list of categories. Clicking on one of these letters shows a list of sub categories starting with that letter and, once a lower level category is chosen, the questions in that category are displayed and can be viewed.

In most cases when you use the search screen all categories will be searched and questions will be displayed regardless of which category they appear in. However, if you have navigated through the categories but have not found what you wanted and then click on the Search button a Category Search option will appear at the bottom of the search screen.

If you take no action the search will look across all categories as normal. However, if you know that the question you require must be in the category you have a selected, or in a sub category underneath that category then select the 'Search category name only' option. When the search is carried out the system will look only in that category and any sub-categories underneath it. This can be a helpful way to reduce the number of results if your original search is too wide.

This also applies to the Popular Topics that can be accessed from the Home page.

When you click the Search button at the top of the screen the search will be carried out according to the criteria you have entered.

If only one document meets your search criteria it will be displayed immediately.

If more than one document is found all documents relating to your search will appear in a list. If more than one document is found new sections will appear at the bottom of the screen. The search criteria you have entered will be hidden but can be redisplayed by clicking the plus sign ('+') at the top left of the screen.

Some words and phrases are often used incorrectly or we have been advised that people use specific words and do not find what they are looking for. We have tried to cater for this by holding a database of common search criteria and alternatives which may be more successful. If any of these are available they will be displayed at the top of your search results.

For example, if you search for 'roadway' and we know that most questions would use the word 'highway', when the search is carried out any questions which do contain the word 'roadway' will be displayed but we will also display the word 'highway' at the top of the results as a blue, underlined clickable link. If the displayed search results do not contain the information you were looking for click on the underlined word and the search will be repeated using the suggested word, with all other criteria remaining unchanged.

Not all searches will have alternative suggestions. We will continue to build up this database using the feedback from our users, so any suggestions you have for inclusion would be welcome.

The search results are initially displayed in order of relevance.

It is possible to change the order of the display of the search results by clicking the appropriate button at the top of the screen.

  • Alphabetically - will list the questions in alphabetical order of the question text.
  • By Category - will split the questions into the different categories under which they are listed in the system.

As well as the question text, the first 30 words of the answer is displayed to help you to determine whether a particular question is the one you are looking for.

It is possible to move through the search results by using the Next and Previous buttons. If you wish to return to the first page of results you can either use the Previous button to move back through the screens or click the Search button again, which will redisplay the search results from the start.

If you do not need to change any of the default search criteria then, instead of using the main Search screen you can use the Quick Search, which is accessed using the Quick Search field at the top right of all screens.

This search searches on an 'All of the words' basis (see above).

Simply enter the text you wish to search for, or the question number (with or without the 'Q') if you know it, in the field and click 'Go'. The search will be carried out. If only one question is found, for example if the reference is entered, then the question and answer will be displayed. Otherwise the search results screen will be displayed in the same way as when the main search is used.

It is also possible to browse through the categories of questions to locate what you are looking for.

Questions in the system are assigned to 'categories'. To browse through the categories choose the ‘Explore A-Z’ menu item at the top of the Home Page then click the letter of the alphabet under which the item for which you are searching would be listed (for example 'D' for 'Dogs').

A new page will be displayed which will list more categories. Choose the most appropriate category for the question you are seeking. There may be sub-categories under this level. In each case simply click on the option which seems most appropriate.

At the bottom level of the category hierarchy a page will be displayed listing the questions of all items in that category. If you can see the question which you are seeking click on it to view it. Otherwise you can navigate back up the category list; or can click on Search to carry out a search either in this category or all categories.