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Search syntax

29-06-2010 FAQ

What is the purpose of search syntax?

Most of the time, you'll be able to find what you want on the ICRC website using Full Text Search or the Advanced Search form.

Sometimes, however, you may need to be a little more sophisticated. Using the search syntax below, you can produce shorter lists of documents, containing more documents of direct relevance to your search and fewer irrelevant ones.


To search for all words with an identical root use *, which stands for "zero, one or several characters." You can use * before a word, after a word, or both.

Type this...To find this...
develop*All documents containing either developing or developed or development.
*equalityAll documents containing equality or inequality
*legal*All documents containing legal, illegal, legally or illegally


Exact phrase

To search for an exact phrase, use double quotes.

Type this...To find this...
"fundamental principles"All documents containing the phrase fundamental principles.


Search for words in titles only

To limit your search to document titles use title:

Type this...To find this...
title:"humanitarian action"All documents containing the phrase humanitarian action in the title.


Capitalization, accents and hyphens

Hyphens matter. Capital letters and accents are ignored.

Type this...To find this...
health-care OR health care OR healthcareAll documents containing one or more of the terms health-care, health care or healthcare


Proximity search

Use the operators NEAR and NEXT to find documents with specific words near each other.

Type this...To find this...
water NEAR pumpAll documents with water and pump within 16 words of each other, with either water or pump first.
water NEXT pumpAll documents with water and pump next to each other and in that order.


Boolean search

Use the operators OR and NOT (or - before the word you want to exclude) to build more complex queries.

Type this...To find this...

(displaced OR refugees) NOT camp

(displaced OR refugees) -camp

All documents with either the words displaced or refugees, or both, but excluding all documents with the word camp.