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Search Help

The Columbia Center for Oral History Interviews Portal supports simple and complex searching. At the top of each page, a simplified search box allows for searching by terms in the collection, as well as Boolean operators. Advanced search provides more powerful limits and combinations.

Basic Searching

Boolean Operators

Using AND, OR, and NOT to refine your search

The operator AND narrows your search by instructing the search engine to search only for records containing all the terms in your search. You do not have to type in the word AND; by default all terms entered into the search box become Boolean AND searches. However, you can adjust your search by doing an OR search (broadens the search to include records containing any or all of the terms) or a NOT search (narrows your search by excluding unwanted terms). You do not have to enter the Boolean operators in capitals. To search for an exact phrase put quotation marks around your search terms.


  • mayors harlem
    Searches for the word "mayors" and the word "harlem" in all fields
  • mayors AND harlem
    Searches for the word "mayors" and the word "harlem" in all fields. Equivalent to mayors harlem.
  • (burma OR myanmar)
    Searches for either "burma" OR "myanmar," or both, in all fields.
  • (burma NOT myanmar)
    Searches for the word "burma" AND NOT the word "myanmar" in all fields.
  • "civil war"
    Search for the exact phrase "civil war" in all fields.


You can use the asterisk (*) symbol as a wildcard to substitute for one or more characters at the end of a word. Note that this symbol cannot be used at the beginning of a word. For example, wood* will find terms such as "Woodrow," "Woods," "Wood," and "Woodworth."

Punctuation and Spaces

When performing a search, punctuation is NOT needed; punctuation such as a period (.), comma (,), dash (-), or apostrophe (') will act as spaces in a search. Quotes around a phrase searches for an exact phrase (see Boolean Operators above). However, spaces are important! Be sure to preserve spaces in your search.


  • ab dally
    Searches for the words "ab" and "dally" separated by one space.
  • a.b. dally
    Equivalent to the search "a b" dally

Advanced Searching

Advanced Fields and the "Limit Search to:" option

Perform an advanced fields search by selecting "Advanced Search >" on the home page, or by selecting "Advanced Search" from the "Search" drop-down menu. You can combine fields and choose the number of results and sort order, as well as search for call number.


  • Fields: you can search for terms in Creator, Title, or Subject fields, or a combination.
  • Show results from: you can limit your search to only oral histories, or you can simultaneously search for archival collections records.

Limit Results

On the right-hand side of your search results screen, under the heading "Limit Results," you will see a detailed overviews about your search results organized by collection, name, subject, or repository (if you have expanded your search). You can use this section to browse links in a particular category or select a link to refine your search results.