Search - What does "sort by relevance" mean?

In this document, we're going to use Basic Search in the online catalog as our example. All the principles mentioned for Basic Search work the same way for Advanced Search.

What is "relevance"?

When you do a search in the online catalog, you enter a keyword or keywords (a word or words that you type into the search box) and  you also have the option of choosing search filters (type of keyword search, type of material, and location).

Relevance refers to the  connection the information in the catalog database and the search string you've entered and the search filters (if any) you've chosen

What makes something "relevant"?

Keywords are a word or words that you enter into the search box on the catalog search screen. These are significant words (like the title of a book or an author's name) that will help finding the items you're looking for in the catalog.

The word (or words) are also called search terms. "Search terms" and "keywords" mean the same thing.

A database record is "relevant" to your keywords because the keywords appear in the record. The more times your keywords appear in a record, the more relevant that database record is considered to be.

How does that work when I do a search?

The catalog database is where all the records are stored of every item owned by every member library.

The database is made up of tables of information and the tables are made up of information fields. An example of a field in a table would be "Title" or "Author". There are many fields in each item's record. Most of the fields are indexed. When a field is indexed, that means the information in the field is available to be searched and found.

Because searching for title and authors is the most popular way of searching the online catalog, when you search for your keywords, the system automatically checks all the records for whether or not your keywords appear in a Title or an Author field.

If your keywords appear in a Title or Author field, the system will show you these results first in the list of search returns. ("Search returns" means the list of items in the catalog that matched your keywords and search filters.)

If your keywords do not appear in a Title or Author field, the system will show you results where your keywords appear in other parts of the records. An example of this might be where a music CD doesn't have the keywords in the Title or Author fields but where the words appear in the name of one of the songs on the album. (Technical note: titles of songs in an album or titles of short stories in a book can also be considered as "titles" from the point of view of the system.)

How do the search filters work with relevance?

A search filter is used to narrow the scope of your search returns. The scope of a search is the area in which a search is appropriate (or "relevant"). In Basic Search, there are three kinds of search filters that can limit the scope of your search returns: a format filter, a Keywordfilter, and a Location filter.

When you use one of these filters, your search returns will be limited to records in the database that match the filters.

For example, if you choose "DVD" from the format filters, your search returns will only contain records that have "DVD" in them.

If you choose a particular library, your search returns will only be from items that are owned by that particular library.