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Resources: For Researchers

These resources provide search tips on how to locate GAO products on our website, information on using the data and images contained in our products, and suggestions for additional sources of information.

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GAO Tools for Your Research:

What Gets Searched?

All of GAO's publications and web pages are searched, including reports, testimonies, legal decisions, bid protests, and content on GAO's website. Search returns results based on matches in information about products, including title, summary, and topics, as well as in the full text of PDF files and web pages. Handwritten and image-based documents are not fully searchable.

Getting Started

  • Enter a keyword or phrase in the Search box, and click the "Search" button.
  • Use the dropdown menus to change the sort order or the number of results per page.
  • Use the options on the left to Show Results for Reports & Testimonies, Legal, or Other Sources, or Refine by Date, Topic, or Agency.
  • Narrow further with context sensitive subcategories. 

Basic Search Features

Auto Suggest

Suggested terms appear below the search box as you type. You can pick one of them or keep typing.

Did you mean?

Interprets your original query to improve search results.

Have some keywords or a topic area?

Type the terms in the box, and click "Search."
Use quotes for a phrase, for example, "aviation security"
Use advanced search to automatically build more complex queries or use Boolean Operators yourself (see below)

Have a report number?

Enter it in the Search box. Include leading and following letters if you know them. This is not case sensitive. For example, you can enter GAO-07-370T, gao-06-729g, nsiad-00-211, or B-208730.

Want to sort results?

Run your search first, then...
Pick a sort option from the dropdown. Example: "Sort by: Date new->old".

Want to see more results?

Run your search first, then...
Choose results per page: 10, 25 or 50.

Want to see just web pages?

Show Results for > Other > Resource

Want to use Boolean Operators?

The BASIC search, by default, looks for items that match every term you include in the search box.

Use Boolean operators to specify terms to be combined through logic operators. The search supports AND, OR and NOT as Boolean operators (Note: Boolean operators must be ALL CAPS). It also supports "+" (must include) and "-" (must not include).

Advanced Search Features

Use up to 10 Search Criteria

Add criteria with the "Add line" link near the bottom of the search. This is how you create more complex search strategies similar to constructing searches using the Boolean AND, OR and NOT operators.

Remove criteria with the "X" beside each row.

The maximum number of rows is 10.


Choose "Must INCLUDE" to require the search terms that have been entered in the row. (This works like the "+" operator.)

Choose "Must NOT Include" to ensure the words in the row do not appear in the search results. (This works like the "-" operator.)

Choose "May include" to increase the likelihood that a term is returned without requiring it.

Some words, all words or this exact phrase

Choose "All of these words" to require that all the words in the row are returned in the search results (without requiring that they be in order or next to each other). This works like the Boolean AND operator.

Choose "Any of these words" to require that at least one of the words in the row appear. This works like the Boolean OR operator.

Choose "This exact phrase" to require that all of the words appear next to each other in the order given. You do not need to put the phrase in quotes.


Each search line can be limited to a particular field (title, summary, full text, or report number) with the "in this field" dropdown menu.

Date filtering

Select a date range in the "Narrow by date" dropdown menus to filter by date. This limits the search by the date of the original document, which could be earlier than the date that the document was published to the website.

More Search Details


The search automatically uses "stemming," a process that matches a given search term with related words in order to better identify relevant search results. For instance, a search for "mining" will also match "miner" and "mines."

Example of the OR Operator

The OR operator links two terms and finds a result if either of the terms exist.

To search for results containing either "london, CT" or just "london" use the query: "london, CT" OR london

Example of the AND Operator

The AND operator finds results where both terms exist anywhere in the text of a single item. The symbol && can be used in place of the word AND.

To search for items that contain both "London, KY" and "airspace," use the query: "London, KY" AND airspace
"London, KY" && airspace

Example of the + or “required” Operator

The "+" or "required" operator requires that the term after the "+" symbol exist somewhere in the result.

To search for results that must contain "london" and may contain "travel" use the query: +london travel

Example of the NOT Operator

The NOT operator excludes results that contain the term or phrase after NOT.

To search for results that contain "London, CT" but not "London, KY" use the query: "London, CT" NOT "London, KY"

Note: The NOT operator cannot be used with just one term or phrase. For example, the following query will return no results: NOT "London, CT"

Example of the "-" or "prohibit" Operator

The "-" or "prohibit" operator excludes results that contain the term or phrase after the "-" symbol.

To search for results that contain "London, CT" but not "London, KY," use the query: "London, CT" - "London, KY"

Note: The - operator cannot be used with just one term or phrase. For example, the following query will return no results: - "London, CT"

Proximity Searches

The tilde symbol (~) finds words that are within a specific distance of each other.

Use the tilde symbol (~) at the end of the last word. Use quotation marks to group the words you want to find near each other.

To search for "paris" and "london" within 10 words of each other, use the query: "paris london"~10


Use up to 10 Search Criteria

Use parentheses to group clauses to form subqueries. This can be very useful if you need to control the Boolean logic for a query.

To search for either "atlanta" or "georgia" and "state," use the query: (atlanta OR georgia) AND state

This means "state" must exist and either "atlanta" or "georgia" may exist in the results.

Field Grouping

Use up to 10 Search Criteria

Use parentheses to group multiple clauses in a single field.

To search for a title that contains both the word "preparer" and the phrase "tax return," use the query: title:(+preparer +"tax return")

You may search within title, description, body or url of the page and you can combine multiple fields in one query.

To search for a title that contains both the word "preparer" and the phrase "tax return" and contains "errors" in the description, use the query: title:(+preparer +"tax return") description:errors

Searching For Special Characters

You can search for special characters that may appear in GAO content, even though the search uses special characters to tell it how to operate.

These are the special characters that can be searched: + - && || ! ( ) { } [ ] ^ " ~ * ? : \

If you want to find any of these characters use the \ before the character. For example to search for "(1+1):2" use the query: \(1\+1\)\:2

Fuzzy Searches

Use fuzzy searches to find words spelled similarly to the query you have entered.

Use the tilde symbol ("~") at the end of a single word.

For example, if you aren't sure how to spell the name "Nassawadox" use the fuzzy search on your best guess of the spelling: Nasawadoc~

You can also supply an additional (optional) parameter to specify the required similarity. The value is between 0 and 1, with a value closer to 1 only terms with a higher similarity will be matched. For example: Nasawadoc~0.6

The default that is used if the parameter is not given is 0.5.


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