Search Help

The Office of Web Communications manages the Northwestern University web search service. The service is provided by an installation of Google's Search Appliance product.

If you are a university webmaster/developer please refer to the information for webmasters.

Not finding answers to your questions? Please send questions to

Finding the Right Information

The University search engine excels at finding keywords in web pages. The algorithms for answering queries are constantly being tweaked to deliver better results, but in a web environment as large as Northwestern's, your query is being compared against more than a million documents. If you have a specific question, often the best way to find the answer is to look for the office or department that handles your subject area, then search that website using the tools provided on the site.

For example, if you are looking for Financial Aid information for a school you are enrolled in on the Chicago campus, you may first want to search for "chicago financial aid", go to the CFA website, and use the site search there to find specific information pertaining to the chicago campus schools' financial aid programs.

Narrow Your Search

Occasionally, a search term or phrase may provide too many search results. The following tips can help to limit the results to better find what you are looking for:

  • Use quotes to search for an exact phrase. For example "do what you hope to do" returns results that contain this Frederic Douglas quote.
  • Use the minus symbol to exclude a specific word. For example the phrase computer information -technology will exclude the word technology from all search results.
  • The search ignores common words (such as pronouns and articles) as well as single letters and single digits. These are referred to as stop words. If you would like to use a stop word to narrow your search, simply place a plus symbol before the search term. For example: Star Wars episode +I

Search within a Department or Domain

There are several ways restrict your search to a specific department or domain. We suggest using one of the following options:

  1. If available, utilize the radio buttons available on the department page near the search box. Some sites will have a search box with additional options.
  2. If this is unavailable, or you need to limit the search further, type the term you are looking for. Press space, then type site: followed by the department URL. For example, a site search within the web department for information about website guidelines should look like this;
    website guidelines site:
    *note - do not place a "/" after the URL. Doing so cause the search to fail.

Search page titles

If you only remember a phrase within the page title, use allintitle: in addition to your search words. For example: allintitle:behavioral standards

Search page addresses or URLs

If you only remember a portion of the page address or URL, use allinurl: in addition to your search words. For example: allinurl:rugby ancient

Do plurals or verb tenses matter?

Yes - it does matter whether you search for a plural word or change the tense of a verb. For example, deploy will display different results than deployed.

Wildcard Searches

Wildcard searches should be prefixed with wildcard: in addition to your search terms. For example: wildcard:research* Wildcard searching may not work in combination with other advanced search prefixes.