This article provides an overview of Wikipedia's search features to find information.
Here are some really good tips and hints for using the Wikipedia search feature effectively:
Avoid short and common wordsEdit
If your search terms include a common "stop word" (such as "the", "one", "your", "more", "right", "while", "when", "who", "which", "such", "every", "about") it may give a large number of non-relevant results. Historically, these words could not be searched at all, but as of February 2006, Wikipedia's Lucene index does not use "stop words", so any word can be successfully used in search queries. Lucene still doesn't search for numbers.
You can use some limited wildcards if you really want to. See Boolean fulltext search for details on their use. However, wildcard searches are slower, so go easy on the poor server.
Words with special charactersEdit
In a search for a word with a diaeresis, such as Sint Odiliënberg, it depends whether this ë is stored as one character or as "ë". In the first case one can simply search for Odilienberg (or Odiliënberg); in the second case it can only be found by searching for Odili, euml and/or nberg. This is actually a bug that should be fixed -- the entities should be folded into their raw character equivalents so all searches on them are equivalent. See also Wikipedia:Special characters.
Words in single quotesEdit
If a word appears in an article with single quotes, you can only find it if you search for the word with quotes. Since this is rarely desirable, it is better to use double quotes in articles for which this problem does not arise. See the manual of style for more info.
An apostrophe is identical to a single quote, therefore the name Mu'ammar can be found only by searching for exactly that (and not otherwise). A word with 's is an exception in that it can be found also by searching for the word without the apostrophe and the s.
Namespaces searched by defaultEdit
The search only applies to the namespaces selected in the user's preferences. To search the other namespaces check or uncheck the tickboxes in "Search in namespaces" box found at the bottom of a search results page. Depending on the browser, a box may still be checked from a previous search, but without being effective any longer! To make sure, uncheck and recheck it.
Searching the image namespace means searching the image descriptions, i.e. the first parts of the image description pages.
The source text is searchedEdit
The source text (what one sees in the edit box, also called wiki text) is searched. This distinction is relevant for piped links, for Wikipedia:interlanguage links (to find links to Chinese articles, search for zh, not for Zhongwen), special characters (if ê is coded as ê it is found searching for ecirc), etc.
Delay in updating the search indexEdit
For reasons of efficiency and priority, very recent changes are not always immediately taken into account in searches.
Multi-lingual Wikipedia searchEdit
- You can do a multi-lingual Wikipedia search using Google Advanced Search or entering site:.wikipedia.org in the Google search box.
- Lumrix: AJAX driven Wikipedia search engine. Supports other languages such as German, Spanish, or French.