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Search Tips

How to Search | Common Problems |Using Filters

How to Search

Type one or more words into the search box and click the Search button (or the Enter key). You can narrow or refine your search further by selecting criteria for Education Level, Resource Type, or Subject.

It is not absolutely necessary to enter a term into the search box for the NSDL search to work, but is recommended. Performaing an empty search will return all resources in the library.

NSDL searches for results using NSDL metadata records (information about the resource) and the text of the resources, when that text is publicly available on the Internet. This is similar to searching a catalog in a library, while simultaneously searching the text of the actual books in the library; you are searching on information about the resource, as well as on information from inside the resource.

Search is not case sensitive.

An exact match in capitalization is not required; the following searches will all return the same results:

  • earth science
  • Earth Science
  • eARtH ScIeNcE

Want words in a specific order? Use quotation marks.

If you place quotation marks around a phrase or a sequence of words, only resources that include all of the words within the quotes, and in that exact order, will be returned in the search results.

For example, searching on "earth science," enclosed in quotes, means your search results must have the phrase "earth science" in them. Without the quotes, the results may have the words earth and/or science in them, but the words are not required to appear next to each other, or in that particular order.

Combining search terms for better results with boolean logic.

Use boolean logic to broaden or narrow your results by combining search terms using the three Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT.

Use AND to narrow a search by combining terms. AND will return results that contain both search terms.
Example: Frog AND Tree

Use OR to broaden a search to include results that contain either term.
Example: Hurricane OR Typhoon

Use NOT to narrow a search by excluding terms. NOT returns results that contain only one of the search terms but not the other term.
Example: Bernoulli NOT Physics

Common Problems

Getting no results, or unexpected results? Try the following:

Check spelling.

Spelling errors can lead to unexpected results or no results. Check your spelling, or try alternate spellings. The search service suggests alternatives for words not found in its dictionary. Click on the suggested spelling offered by the search service to see potential results.

Choose your words carefully.

Use terms that are as specific as possible to the subject you are interested in, instead of more general terms. For example, use cumulonimbus instead of clouds, or dinosaur instead of large animal. Keep in mind that some words have more than one meaning, or different meanings in different contexts. The word current, for example, can relate to electricity as well as to oceans; using the word electricity along with current, or using the phrase electrical current, will narrow the search. Use words likely to appear in resources devoted to the subject you are interested in, and not likely to appear in resources about other subjects. Or try synonyms; for example, if you are not satisfied with the results from searching on the word weather, try meteorology.

Reset your search options.

Filtering is a useful way to narrow search results to a manageable number, but if you select too many filtering options, you may filter out all results. If you have selected search filters, you can remove all of them by clicking the Remove Selections link.

Using Filters to Narrow Your Search

Filtering out search results you're unlikely to want, or limiting your search results to resources that share desired characteristics, are useful techniques when your search terms retrieve too many resources. NSDL allows you to do this in several ways.

Filter by Education Level, Resource Type, or Subject

You can confine your initial search to resources based on associated metadata for education level, resource type, or subject, by using the Education level, Resource type, or Subject links next to the search box: check the options you wish to limit, and then click the search button.

Or, you can enter a search term in the search box, click search, and then futher refine your results by applying the same filters: click the associated metadata links for education level, resource type, and subject within the search result item listings to submit another search that limits the current result set by that specific metadata value.

By default, all records are searched. A boolean OR is performed within a metadata fieldset and a boolean AND is performed across metadata fieldsets.

For example: If you selected 'Middle School', and 'High School' for grade levels and selected 'Instructional Material' and 'Audio/Visual' for resource type, your search would look for ('Middle School' OR 'High School') AND ('Instructional Material' OR 'Audio/Visual').

As you make Education level or Resource type selections for your search, you are able to expand or collapse available lists of categories (clicking on the + sign to the left of the Education level or Resource type choice will expand the list). For example, the resource type category Instructional Material has mulitple options for further selection. If you select Activity or Lesson Plan, that label appears as bolded in the search results of each record returned, as an additional indicator of the selection you made.

Clicking on other category links in the resource record (for ed level, resource type, or subject) will take you to a set of resources filtered by that choice. For example, clicking on the Audio/Visual link will take you to a results set of only audio/visual materials.

Not all resources in NSDL include values for the grade level, resource type, or subject metadata fields, so limiting your search through use of these filters may exclude some relevant resources from the results.

Filter by collection

NSDL includes groups of digital resources ("collections") selected or made available by organizations such as the American Museum of Natural History, the National Science Teachers Association, and MIT. Please see the Glossary for an explanation of a collection. When you search NSDL, you are searching all of these collections simultaneously. On the Learn more about this resource page (the full record, or description of a given resource), the logo(s) that appears in the Found in collection(s) section of the full record of the resource identifies the source collection provider of a resource. (Resources can be cataloged by multiple collection, so more than one logo can appear in the Found in collection(s) section). Clicking on a collection logo in this area allows you to either exclude a collection unlikely to offer resources in which you are interested, or to require results come from a particular collection more tailored to your needs or interests.

Classroom Ready icon

The Classroom Ready graphical icon is used with selected resources in the library to indicate the resource may have greater utility for teaching and learning. This may be demonstrated in a variety of ways: by adhering to curriculum or professional development goals of users; by demonstrating capacity for encouraging critical thinking, problem solving, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, or interactivity (21st century skills), or by its capability to be embedded in or disseminated by learning applications or platforms (see Learning Application Readiness, or LAR).