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Frequently Asked Questions


Tips for Searching:

Most users of the collection are interested in one of two things. Either they are interested in what we hold on a specific geographic region or they are interested in comparing a subject, such as prisons or railways across a number of regions, or indeed the whole Commonwealth. Some readers, of course, are interested in a very specific subject, or in a particular person. The tips which follow should prove useful to all of these categories of user and indeed to all who wish to use the collection.


Classmark stem searching

Classmark stem searching is recommended for finding material in this collection primarily because it will reveal the entire holdings of a serial more easily than other search methods. Although the title of a serial may have changed several times over its existence the stem classmark will usually remain the same. A fairly uncommon exception to this is when, for example, an additional department is incorporated into a report and then later a separate report covering this department is issued. Classmark stem searching is also particularly suited to searching for resources on a specific geographic region, or a small number of regions.

In order to conduct this type of search an awareness of classmark construction and country classification is required. For a table listing country classification numbers please click here. A small amount of time spent mastering this technique will be time well spent. Examples of classmark stems used for the official publications in the RCS collection are as follows:





The stem will usually be followed by a running no. (1,2,3,4,5 etc.) or the year of publication (1954,1955 etc.) All official publications in the RCS collection will begin RCS.L. where RCS signifies the collection to which the resource belongs and "L" signifies the official or semi-official status of the resource.

The RCS.L. part of the classmark is followed either directly by the country classification number or by a further letter or series of letters representing the type of resource. For example:


= RCS.L.[Blue Book].[country classification no. (Malaysia)].[year covered]


=RCS.L.[country classification. no. (Singapore)].[alphabetic subdivision (Marine Survey Department)].[year covered]

An entire classmark would thus read:

RCS.L.34.E1.1951 =RCS.L.[country classification no. (North Borneo)].[alphabetic subdivision (Education)].[year covered]

Where the "L" part of the classmark is followed directly by a country classification number the resource is part of a long run of official departmental reports. These have been placed in an alphabetic sequence so, for example, agriculture will have the stem RCS.L.311.An, and railways, RCS.L.311.Rn. For a full list of the alphabetic subdivisions used in the classification process for each country please click here.

The final example: RCS.L.38.1. signifies a run of legislative council papers or similar documents covering activity in the entire colony. These documents precede the alphabetic sequence.

Users wishing to perform this type of search should use the Basic Search option typing the stem classmark into the Search for box surrounded by double-quotes e.g. "RCS.L.38.1".  Alternatively select Advanced Search and select filter Classmark. Enter classmark stem, e.g.  "RCS.L.45." (Uganda official publication) surrounded by double-quotes and hit Search button.  It is advisable not to use the year published or running no. element at the end of the classmark when searching as records cover long runs and individual years are not listed in the index. Once a record has been found check the Library has note towards the bottom of the full entry to see if the year you require is held.


Simple boolean searching

The simplest form of Boolean searching, use of the Boolean operator AND, will serve the needs of many of our users. Other Boolean operators include NOT and OR though an explanation of the use of these operators is not given here. By using the Boolean operator AND searches like those below can be conducted:

railways and malaysia 

broadcasting and Singapore

agriculture and sudan

posts and telegraphs and malaya

health and "hong kong"

The first of these searches will retrieve all records which contain the word railways and the word Malaysia no matter where in the record these words appear. Searching by this method is not case sensitive though it is important to note that when using more than one word such as Hong Kong, in the final example, that the phrase must be enclosed in speech marks (“hong kong”). If speech marks are not used in some searches the system will be unable to interpret the search and a message to this effect will appear on the screen. Searches can be made more specific through the use of a second AND operator as in the penultimate example above. This search will retrieve only records which contain all three words.

Those wishing to perform Boolean searching should use the Basic Search option in Newton, typing the search (e.g. railways and Malaysia) in to the box under Search for and selecting Boolean in the drop down list of options under Search by. Failure to select Boolean will either result in the system being unable to interpret your search or in the retrieval of up to 10,000 records containing either/any, rather than both/all, of your search terms anywhere in the record.


Right-truncated searching

This type of search allows the user to search using only the beginning of a word when the exact ending is unknown, the search term has a variant ending or the search term may appear in singular or plural. Right-truncated searching can be combined with simple Boolean searching. For example agriculture and malay? An example of when this search method may be useful is when searching for information on the Federated Malay States, Malaya or Malaysia. If resources on this geographic region are required the user can simply enter the right-truncated search malay? and records containing any of the three variations of the word (Malay, Malaya and Malaysia) will be displayed. It should be noted that this search will obviously not display material covering the Straits Settlements and thus a classmark stem search may still be preferable in this case.

Right-truncated searching can be, and is best, used within the Boolean search option (see above). For example malay? and agriculture or simply malay? Right-truncated searching can also be used under the Keyword anywhere and Title options. Use of the Keyword anywhere option, however, is likely to return more results than users would normally want whilst use of the Title option will only retrieve records with titles beginning with the search term and not records which contain the search term elsewhere in the title.


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