Taking Advantage of Modern Full-Text Search Engines

Hopefully, many of you have seen and utilized the recently launched SPIN QS funding opportunity search engine. One of the primary goals of that initiative was to implement a truly modernized full-text search engine in order to allow people utilizing the tool to be in familiar territory when executing a search, and to take advantage of all of the flexibility and functionality that the newer technology offers.

For those unaware, this means that a single input box is provided where a user can invoke the following commands simultaneously:


  1. Invoke “and” or “or” logic between words being typed.
  2. Specify words that, if found, will exclude records from results.
  3. Specify exact phrases within double quotes that must be found in results.
  4. Use asterisks as wildcards for word endings or suffixes (eg. Nano*).
  5. Utilize inflectional expansion of words; automatic inclusion of all parts of speech of a root word.
  6. Utilize an integrated thesaurus; automatic inclusion of synonyms or conceptually related words.
  7. Utilize parentheses to dictate the order of operations of the search, much like a mathematical equation.

With each of the capabilities above, it is possible to formulate a highly personalized and specific search, as well as expand the vocabulary being employed to capture additional relevant opportunities.

It is important to recognize that the full-text search is being carried out against the entirety of the SPIN programs. This provides the benefits that broad terms can be utilized to search for opportunities in a particular field, while at the same time specific words or phrases can be used with “exclude” logic (inserting a minus sign prior to the word or quoted phrase) to filter out opportunities that are already known of or fit within a related but unwanted field.

For example, there are plenty of opportunities related to STEM, but there are also a variety of opportunities related to STEM that deal with improvements in primary and secondary education that you may want to filter out. You could execute a search with the following syntax in order to accomplish that goal:

stem -“high school”  -“primary education”  -“secondary education”  -sea  -lea

The above query should find all opportunities that reference “STEM” but also exclude all opportunities that make any reference to primary or secondary education. This is just one example; you may consider breaking “STEM” out into its actual words, which will take advantage of the search engine by expanding the search to opportunities that contain the necessary words, perhaps not in the specific form entered. For example:

stem or (science technology mathematics engineering)

This query will provide all opportunities that contain “stem” or contain all of the words that the acronym is composed of. The options are nearly endless, which means as long as you can think of the words to describe your needs, you can formulate exactly the search you need, utilizing standard order of operations and modern search conventions. SPIN QS contains context sensitive help, and you will find a small “?” button next to the search input bar that contains fully explanations on how the search engine will operate and how you can manipulate its various grammar and syntax parsing.

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