How to Search the Archive

The Qatar Digital Library contains a wealth of information to help you find the content you want. Every item in the archive is:

  • catalogued with detailed information about its contents, extent and date 
  • tagged with the key people, places and subjects contained
  • machine transcribed, if it contains typewritten and printed pages, to make it searchable

Here are some useful tips for searching that will help you get the most out of the content available:

  • You can search the Qatar Digital Library from any page using the red search symbol in the site header.
  • Click on a ‘Filter’ in the sidebar beside your search returns to narrow your search by subject, place, people and organisations or content type.
  • You can combine any number of filters to produce an ever more specific search. The numbers next to the filters indicate how many items exist in the archive matching your current search. 
  • You can use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase (e.g."wireless telegraph station"), including a shelfmark reference (eg. “IOR/R/15/1/100”).
  • Remove quotation marks around phrases to match each word individually (e.g. wireless telegraph station will return more results than "wireless telegraph station")
  • You can partially-match words and phrases by using '*' (e.g. IOR/R/15/1/10* finds items with a shelfmark beginning with "IOR/R/15/1/10", and *R/15/1/100 finds items ending in "R/15/1/100")
  • Ensure your search returns include a key term by using '+' (e.g. wireless +telegraph station ensures all returns contain telegraph)
  • Ensure your search returns exclude a key term by using '-' (e.g. -wireless telegraph station ensures all returns exclude wireless)
  • You can search the ‘Articles from our experts’ by selecting this option under ‘Filter by document source’.
  • The results presented will vary depending on the language that the website is using, due to the different conventions used to match phrases in English and in Arabic. In general you will get the best results if you search for words and phrases in the same language that you have selected for the interface. 

Using the Timeline Filter

The timeline filter is designed to help you explore the archive by using a rich visual representation of your search results over time.

  • Click 'Show timeline filter' to start exploring
  • There are three ways to select a date range:
    1. Click and drag the handles on the top time bar to quickly adjust the FROM and TO date
    2. Click and drag on the main graph to narrow in on a highlighted range
    3. Alternatively, enter the dates in the input boxes provided

The vertical axis of the graph represents the number of matching results. 'k' is an abbreviation for one thousand. So, a label of 20k means 20,000 results.

The bottom axis of the graph show dates for which there are results that match your search terms and filters. If this date is uncertain, the same record may show up under multiple different years.

Notice that the results update as you interact with the chart, showing results within the date range you selected. After using the filter you can bookmark the page or copy and paste the page address from your browser address bar to share your results with others.

The timeline filter is not available on mobile phones nor older browsers for technical reasons. If you are using these systems you can still filter by date by clicking on any of the date ranges listed in 'Refine Your Search' (mobile) or the left-hand filter bar (browsers).

Using the Highlight Words feature

You can search for words within documents on QDL that have transcriptions.

To use it, perform a search.

If documents containing transcriptions are included in your results, the FILTER BY SEARCH TERM LOCATION facet will appear in the left-hand menu. This enables you to filter to only those items that have a transcription that contains your search term.

When you view an item with a transcription that contains your search term, your search term will be highlighted.

Transcription highlighting will remain as you move between pages of the same document.

Add or amend to the page highlights by clicking the highlight pen icon.

To remove highlights, click the highlight pen and then the x to clear your search.

On pages where no transcript is available, the highlight pen icon is greyed out. Please note that because the majority of transcriptions are added using a computer program that scans the items, transcriptions are largely limited to typed, English-language documents. Only transcriptions with a good quality threshold are displayed. We are seeking to add more transcriptions to English and other language documents as we add more items to the archive.

About OCR

Many of the documents in the QDL have been scanned using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. This automatically converts document text into machine-readable text which can be used to search.

Only OCR text with a word accuracy of 60% and above is used in search results, and shown on item pages.

At present, OCR text is primarily available on type-written, English-language documents.