Library Research Skills Tutorial About the tutorial
Using Resources

Search strings

Example: searching an electronic concordance

Electronic concordances are searchable lists of all the words used in a corpus of texts. They can be used to retrace quotations and to collect information on specific subjects. Using these can save time, instead of searching through the index of a thousand books you can perform the search only once over a thousand texts. Furthermore indexes are selective while concordances are comprehensive. Scholarly interests change, gender studies or material culture were of little or no concern to scholars 50 years ago, and this means that electronic concordances are a useful means of accessing information that was previously not indexed.

The Library of Latin Texts (CLCLT) contains most of Latin Classical literature, a great part of medieval Latin literature and some Renaissance texts. The editors aim to collect in electronic format the entire corpus of Western Latin literature. Therefore the CLCLT is becoming an indispensable tool for researchers in all fields of early modern historical research.

CLCLT does what most electronic concordances do, but the interface is so simple that it serves as a useful example:

Search screen of CLCLT

Electronic concordances contain so many words that it is vital to search effectively. You can do this by limiting your search by author, title, period or era (Auctor, Titutlus, Clavis, Aetas in the CLCT interface, see above).

You also need to construct an effective search string using the keywords, operators and wildcards discussed in this tutorial.

For example:

In order to research the history of perfume in the Christian West you may want to begin with finding out about the perfume of Christ. You could use keywords and the truncation operator to search for:

  • Christ* alone, which produces 127016 hits
  • odor* alone, which produces 6388 hits
  • odor Christi, which produces only 42 hits
  • Odor* Christ*, which produces 56 hits
In CLCLT Boolean operators are expressed by means of these three signs: + (AND); # (NOT); , (OR).

You could incoporate these to conduct the following searches:
  • AND: Odor* + Christ*, here the concordance will search all the sentences containing both Christ* and odor* and produce a list of 697 hits.
  • NOT: Odor* # Christ* produces a list of all the 5691 phrases containing odor* and not containing the word Christ*.
  • OR : Odor*, Christ* produces a list of 126767 matches where either Odor* or Christ* appear in a sentence.

After you are happy with the number of hits you have retrieved:

  • Click on the `Sententiae' tab to obtain a list of the passages containing the words highlighted.
  • Scroll through the list and select those matches which are relevant and export them.
  • Click on each match to open the `Textus' window and examine the passage selected in its context.
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