Search help

See How to search and browse on using Quick search and Advanced search, on searching within legislation, and for tips on finding different types of legislation.

Or read on for more technical information on how search works, including on using Boolean search terms, so you can make the most of the search features on the website. The information below applies to Quick search, Advanced search's Title and Content fields, and Search within.

actual words used
Searching looks for words actually used in the legislation, rather than searching by subject. For example, searching for divorce and dissolution marriage will return two different sets of results, although the subject may be the same.

basic key words
If you enter words separated by spaces, the search will find documents that contain all of the words. For example, searching for apple pear finds documents that contain both apple and pear but not those that only contain apple. You can change this behaviour by using phrases, Boolean searching, or the drop-down menu next to Content in Advanced search.

not case sensitive
Searching is not case-sensitive, so the results will be the same whether you use capital or lower-case letters.

If you enter words within quote marks, the search will find the words as they appear within the quotes. For example, searching for “green apple” finds documents that contain green apple but not green domestic apple. In Advanced search, Content, you can achieve the same result by using the drop-down menu and selecting This exact phrase.

The search applies stemming by default, meaning that variants of a word are included in the search, so for example a search for govern will also find governs, governed, and governing.

However you can turn stemming off for Advanced search, using the tick box.

Boolean searching
If you use certain words between your other search words, the search will use them to change its behaviour. (Note, however, that stemming overrides Boolean searching unless you turn stemming off—see above.)

These words are:

  • and, meaning the search will find both words, for example, apple and pear (though the “and” is not always necessary—see basic key words)
  • or, meaning the search will find either word (or both), for example, apple or pear
  • not, meaning the search will specifically exclude the following word, for example, apple not pear.

To actually search for the words and, or, or not, make them part of a phrase.

In the Advanced search Content field, the three drop-down menu options are equivalent to and, or, and phrase.

fuzzy searching
The fuzzy search symbol % finds words even if they are spelt incorrectly. For example, ba%nana will find bannana and banana.

You can use parentheses (ie brackets) to make your searches more specific. Parentheses group search words into larger units. For example:

(apple or pear) and orange finds documents with either both apple and orange, or both pear and orange

apple or (pear and orange) finds documents with either just apple, or both pear and orange.

proximity searching
This finds a word or phrase within a certain number of words of another word or phrase. For example, searching for peach w/10 cobbler finds documents that contain the word peach within 10 words of cobbler.

The wildcard symbol ? enables a single letter to be replaced, and the wildcard symbol * enables multiple letters to be replaced. For example, searching for appl? finds apply or apple, while appl* finds application as well. Avoid starting your search with a wildcard symbol.

putting them together
You can use as many special search terms as are necessary to narrow your search. For example, (“domestic apple” and (pesticide or “orchard spray”)) not organic will find documents that contain the phrase domestic apple and either the word pesticide or the phrase orchard spray as long as they do not contain the word organic.

Avoid using symbols in your search terms, except for the special search symbols given above.

For an Act, "year" means the year it was enacted. For a Bill, "year" means the year it was introduced. For secondary legislation, "year" means the year it was made. For Other Instruments, "year" means the year it was made or, on occasion, the year it came into force.