Guidance on Using the Virtual Library

The Virtual Library offers two search interfaces which work in different ways to enable you to find the documents you need. The Guided Search is the more basic search and could be used for documents on a particular issue, whereas the Advanced Search could be used for more specific searches. 

1. Guided Search

The Guided Search (or faceted search) works by starting off with a large set of results which can be narrowed down using filters to isolate relevant results.  Image of Guided Search page

Example:Filter by topic image I'm looking for a document about discrimination affecting elderly persons, I type “elderly persons” into the keyword field, and I am presented with 85 results.

You can then continue to add filters to narrow down your results even further - by country, document type, date and source. As you browse the dropdown lists of filters, each criteria shows the amount of results that will be displayed if it is applied.

I apply a filter from the “topics” list to narrow the search by “direct discrimination” which then presents me with five results.

Sort Results

  • You can sort your results by date in ascending or descending order.
  • You can also sort results by “relevance”. This relates to the relevancy and frequency of keyword you have used in the keyword box found within the document, in combination with the filter dropdowns you may have selected. 

Share Results

You can then share your results by copying the URL on the results landing page (i.e. the page you are taken to once you have clicked "search".  For example, here is the URL of the search carried out in the above example:[0]=&f[1]=field_issue%3A4


2. Advanced Search

Advanced Search Image

The numerous options on the advanced search function enable users to create more detailed searches. In the "Contains" box, you should enter keywords which could be found in the document title. This uses a syntax described below.

Using the dropdown options you can specify parameters that will define the search exactly, such as: document type is "articles and commentary", on the topic of "theories of equality and non discrimination", containing the keyword "age", published after 2000 and published before 2015. You can manually enter dates yourself or you can use the calendar to do so.   

After you have carried out a search, additional criteria can be added or removed in order to refine the search further.

The "search again" button allows you to start a new search.

Sort Results 

  1. You can sort results by date in ascending or descending order.
  2. You can also sort results by “relevance” which relates to the relevancy of the words you have used within the "Contains" box and the frequency and relevancy of where these keywords appear in the document (e.g. title, first page etc.) 

Share Results

Results can also be shared by copying a URL for the specific search you have carried. Such as the URL for the elderly persons example above: 


3. Using the Website Search Box

The website also offers a search that indexes the entire content of the website found at the top of every page.

Website Search Box

When you search using this box, enter one or more search terms about the item into the basic search box, and you will receive search results that match those words. When searching for documents this way, use specific words instead of general ones. Enter words that you think will appear in the documents you want as this search function will index the entire website for these words.

The powerful search capabilities will often give you what you're looking for straight away. However, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the options that follow. Prefix keywords with:

  • + for “must contain” 
  • - for “mustn't contain”
  • Use quotation marks to search for an exact word or phrase 
  • Use an asterisk * after a keyword to search for spelling variations

Example 1: +Equal Rights Trust, “Case Summary”, “Tirkey v Chandok”, “Tirkey v Chandhok*”
Example 2: +United Nations, “Report”, “Zambia”