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Knowledge360 Insider: Tips for Building Boolean Searches

Jennifer Knauff

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February 5, 2019

Anyone responsible for market research, identifying market trends or supporting market and competitive intelligence knows that finding data is rarely the issue. The amount of new data produced daily is truly mind-blowing. A recent Forbes article calculates that 2.5 quintillion (that's 2.5 followed by 18 zeros) bytes of data are created every day and this number is accelerating with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). In the last two years alone, a whopping 90 percent of the world's data was created. Finding data, especially from the discoverable information freely available on the Internet, is not the problem that most market researchers face. Finding the "right" data, however, now that's a different story. 

Filtering Data with Advanced Boolean Searches

Separating noise from signal has never been more difficult than in today's data-driven world. Now, more than ever, research and intelligence professionals need to take advantage of advanced strategies to drill down into their data and make sure that the most important information filters to the top. One of the most common ways to do this is with Boolean Searches. 

The term "Boolean" comes from George Boolean, the man who invented Boolean Logic in the 19th century. Boolean Logic is the basis of modern computer logic. A Boolean search is a type of search allowing users to combine keywords with modifiers such as AND, NOT and OR to produce more relevant results. Adding these modifiers to your search can intelligently reduce your search results from an unmanageable number to a meaningful one.

As an example, try running a simple Google search for Hotels and it will return trillions of results. By contrast, results from a search for Hotels and New York City and Midtown and Five Star Rating returns far fewer.

Some tools are coded to interpret when a user is making a Boolean search without including modifiers, Google search is one of these tools. Our competitive intelligence tool, Knowledge360®, also follows this model and enables users to narrow down their search results by using Boolean search modifiers and syntax. This capability is coupled with advanced semantic analysis, natural language processing, deduplication, and multiple layers of filtering to ensure that the results returned from a search in Knowledge360® include only the most relevant information.      

Using Boolean Searches in Knowledge360®

In Knowledge360®, you can use Boolean search terms anywhere you see a search bar. This includes the following areas of the site: 

  • News & Press
  • Documents
  • Field Intelligence
  • Topics
  • Advanced Search
  • Custom Data Sets
  • Widgets
Knowledge360 Boolean Search 

This table showcases some of the more advanced Boolean search capabilities supported in Knowledge360®

 Search Type

Format

Explanation/Example

Wildcard

term?

Use a question mark (?) for single characters (e.g., te?t returns test or text) or asterisk (*) for multiple characters (e.g., te* returns test or text).

Fuzzy

term~

Use a tilde (~) to search for terms similar to a word but not exactly the same (e.g., test~ will match test, tests, pest, pests etc…). To limit the edit distance, add a number between 0 and 2 (default) to the end (e.g., test~1 will match test, tests, pest, but not pests (p in beginning and s at the end = 2 edits).

Proximity

“some phrase”~

Use a tilde (~) at the end of a phrase to match results where the terms are within the specified distance to each other (e.g., “Knowledge360 software”~4 matches results where the two terms are mentioned within 4 words of each other; “Knowledge360 competitive intelligence software” is a match.

Pro Tip: Build your Boolean searches in Microsoft Word before setting them up as saved searches and alerts in Knowledge360.

By default Microsoft Word creates smart quotes (the curvy ones) and you will need to adjust your AutoCorrect settings before building out your search terms. If the smart quotes are used, the search will look for any of the words within the phrase, not the entire phrase itself.

For example, "Competitive Intelligence Tools" using smart quotes will return results for anything containing either "Competitive" or "Intelligence" or "Tools" but will only return results for "Competitive Intelligence Tools" when using straight quotes. 

To update your Microsoft Word settings: 

In Microsoft Word go to File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options > AutoFormat As You Type, then deselect the "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" option.

Microsoft Settings Window

If you have existing an existing Microsoft Word file with Boolean search strings that are incorrectly formatted, follow the additional step:

Open the Replace window, enter a quotation mark in each field and select "Replace All." All quotation marks will be updated.

Microsoft Find and Replace

Solving the Data Challenge with Boolean

Competitive intelligence tools, like Knowledge360®, offer researchers and analysts the opportunity to spend less time gathering data and more time analyzing it. Data with context becomes information but it's not until that information is analyzed that it becomes valuable intelligence for your organization. Building Boolean searches correctly to drill down to the most relevant data points can be complicated, but when done correctly, it will deliver more targeted results. Identifying how to strategically refine searches to deliver only the best results as the amount of data created continues to expand will increasingly become one of the great challenges intelligence professionals face on a daily basis. 

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Jennifer Knauff
Jennifer Knauff

As the Lead Customer Success Manager for Knowledge360®, Jennifer Knauff is our resident expert on implementing, optimizing, and gleaning competitive insights from Knowledge360®. Jennifer leads on-boarding and ongoing support efforts for Knowledge360® customers and advocates to prioritize customer feedback to the product development team.

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