Constructing a search query v.2

Search for collections by constructing a search query.

Use the following instructions to customise your search, whether it be a simple keyword search, or a more complex search using search commands.

Search commands 

Search commands are special words and symbols that you can use to construct your search query and improve the results of your search. 

Search by using a single search command - or by constructing a complex combination of search commands. 

Here is a list of search commands, what they do, and examples:


Get results that contain both of the words.

If you do not use any commands in your search, Trove will assume that you want to find things that have all of those words in them, and effectively puts an AND between each of your keywords.


  • Paul AND Kelly
  • Paul Kelly

Both of these examples will give you results that contain both of the words “paul” and “kelly”.


Get results that contain one or more of the words.


cat OR dog


Exclude items from your results that contain the word(s). A minus sign can also be used in place of NOT.


  • cat NOT dog
  • cat -dog

Both of these examples will give you results that contain "cat" but do not contain "dog".

"quotation marks"

Get results containing a specific phrase, rather than separate words.


  • "Alfred Deakin"
  • "South Australia"

Important note: You will get results with an exact match at the start of the results list (so long as the sort order is set to relevance). You will also get results for close (but not exact) matches, which will appear towards the bottom of the search results list. This is useful in finding articles where the content is not always accurate (such as OCR transcripts).

To get only exact matches, use the command fulltext - see below for more details.


Use brackets to group your search terms together, and combine search commands. Putting brackets around each set of search commands will improve your results.


  • “South Australia” AND (elections OR politics) NOT (Adelaide OR Kingston) 
  • (cats AND dogs) NOT rabbits
  • (cats dogs) -rabbits

These last two examples will give you the exact same results, as Trove will use AND where no command is given.


Get results from a certain date range.


date:[1920 TO 1930]


Get results created by a specific person (including authors, illustrators, editors, etc.)


  • creator:"Donald Norman"


Get results that match a subject heading in the Trove record.


  • subject:"cognitive psychology"


Get results that match the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).


  • isbn:9781922142436
  • issn:0421-3807


Get results that have been publicly tagged with specific keywords or phrases.


  • publictag:(sydney)
  • publictag:"clement wragge"


Get results held by a specific organisation, as identified by a National Union Catalogue (NUC) symbol.


  • nuc:QU (Held by QU but not QU:IR) 
  • nuc:"QU:IR" (Held by QU:IR. Note that the whole NUC symbol needs to be in quotation marks) 
  • nuc:QU* (Held by QU, QU:IR, and other NUC symbols starting with QU)

Hot tip: Search Trove's collection of digitised books and journals using nuc:"ANL:DL".


Get results that have tags or comments attached to them.


  • bundanoon has:tags
  • "humpty doo" has:comments
  • geelong NOT has:comments

Note that, in this third example, you can use NOT to find items without tags or comments.

~ (near)

Get results where keywords are found near each other, setting the 'distance' between your keywords.


  • "pioneer australia"~2

This example will give you results with the keywords 'pioneer' and 'australia' within two words of each other. 

* (wildcard)

Broaden your search to all keywords that start with the same characters. You must provide at least three characters before adding the asterisk.


  • math* tutor*

This example will give you results with words such as maths, mathematics, mathematical, tutor, tutors, tutorials - and many more.


Get results with words that match the exact spelling of your keywords and phrases. 


  • fulltext:deakes 
  • fulltext:"watchmaker and jeweller" 
  • fulltext:watchmaker fulltext:jeweller 

Hot tip: Combine this command with ~0 at the end of a phrase to find a very specific phrase: e.g. fulltext:"Mrs Mills"~0 


Get results with items that have been recently added or updated in Trove by adding lastupdated:[yyyy-mm-ddT00:00:00Z TO *] to your search. To search replace yyyy-mm-dd with the earliest date from which you would like to search.


lastupdated:[2020-02-14T00:00:00Z TO *]

Hot tip: By using this search term in the Newspapers & Gazettes category, you can find both newly-added articles and articles that have had their text recently corrected.

Useful tips and tricks for constructing a Trove search

In addition to the search commands listed above, here are a few more useful tips for searching on Trove. 

Search for names or phrases containing punctuation 

Search for words or phrases that would normally include punctuation, by either removing the punctuation from your search terms, running the terms together, or replacing the punctuation with a space and searching for the term as a phrase.

Example - Instead of o'reilly and 2/14 Battalion, use:

  • oreilly and 214th battalion; or
  • "o reilly" and "2 14th battalion"

Search for names starting with “Mc” 

Also search for the name excluding the ‘c’, or replacing the ‘c’ with a space and searching as a phrase.


  • mchugh
  • mhugh
  • "m hugh"

This is because names beginning with Mc may be printed as M‘, and processed as an M followed by an apostrophe, M’ (and thus the c is not searchable).

Searching for common words as names 

Use the ~ (near) command to filter out unrelated results, where the name is also a common word.


  • "Mr Smith"~2
  • "Mrs White"~2

Use title with name, for example “Mr Smith”~2“Mrs White”~2 

Note: There should be no space between the tilde (~) and the phrase. 

This will eliminate many of the search results which are unrelated to names. Adding additional terms, such as place names will also help narrow your search. 

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