Advanced searches

Learn Overton’s search syntax for phrases, proximity matching, searching specific fields and boolean queries

Simple keyword searches in Overton will return all of the documents containing those words, and you can then use the filters on the left hand side of the search pages to make your search more precise.

However, Overton also supports more complex queries using boolean operators (AND, OR and NOT), searches within specific fields and more.

Looking for phrases

By default, search strings are broken up into words and each one is searched for separately, so

income tax

will find all documents that contain both income and tax, even if they’re not next to each other (for example you’ll match the phrase “income from tax was high last year“).

To look for a phrase rather than individual words, put it in quotes. For example:

"income tax"

* Wildcard

Users can search for alternate ends of words using the ‘*’ wildcard. Wildcards are used in keyword searching to represent one or more characters. For example, a search for


will retrieve documents that contain the words Canada, Canadian or Canadians.

One thing to note is that the ‘*’ wildcard can only be applied to single words and will not work for phrase searching using quotes.

Special characters

Overton is sensitive to diacritics. For example, querying Overton for “nino” will return different results than a search for “niño”.

If the name of a researcher you’d like to search for on the people tab contains accented characters, we recommend including its special characters :

eg: “Bernhard Schölkopf ” rather than “Bernhard Scholkopf

Boolean operators

You can craft more complicated queries using AND, OR and NOT.

"covid-19" AND protection AND NOT masks

will return policy documents containing both “COVID-19” and “protection” but only if the document doesn’t contain “masks”

You can use brackets to signify which parts of the query should match first. For example:

(("data science" or "artificial intelligence") AND "governance") OR "AI ethics"

will match documents either containing “governance” as well as “data science” or “artificial intelligence”, OR the phrase “AI ethics”

Proximity searches

To search for words occurring near each other you can use the ~N operator, where N is how many words are allowed in between each part of your phrase.

For example:

"data science"~1

will find documents containing the words “data” and “science” next to each other or with one word between them where “data” appears first and “science” appears second (e.g. “data science” and “data and science” would match, but “data indicates that science” and “science of data” wouldn’t).

Searching specific fields

You can find documents with titles, abstracts or authors (in the scholarly articles view) by prepending your search with title:, abstract: or author: respectively.

You can also find policy documents containing links to a given domain or even a site-specific identifier like a catalog number or DOI (assuming Overton has collected this information – we only do this for certain sources) using the domain: or id: prepends.

Specific field searches have to be at the start of your search query. As well, you can only search one specific field at a time and all the words after the prepend will be included in your query. So,

title:gender equality STEM

will show results with “gender equality” and “STEM” in the title but not in the full-text of the document.

You can however, combine specific field searches with other techniques like phrases, proximity searches and boolean queries. For example,

title:"tobacco packaging"

will find documents with the phrase “tobacco packaging” in the title (or translated title, for non-English documents)

author:"Erica Smith" OR "E Smith"

will return articles written by Erica Smith or E Smith.

The abstract search looks in both the title and the document abstract. Note that policy document don’t usually have formal abstracts in the same way that scholarly papers do and they aren’t always available.


will return documents that have the word “climate” in either their title or abstract.

will return all documents that link out to or any of its subdomains.

will return documents that link specifically to (and not, for example,

If Overton collects site-specific identifiers you can find them like so:

id:JRC127215 OR JRC127882

will return documents with a site specific ID matching JRC127882 or JRC127215 (in this example the identifiers are from the Joint Research Centre, an EU agency).

Updated on February 9, 2024

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