University of Toronto English Library Search Help

Developed by Mark Catt in co-operation with Prof. Ian Lancashire and the University of Toronto English Library

Searching the University of Toronto English Library

Patterweb/UTEL is a query/display program that searches the University of Toronto English Library for user-specified words and displays results in a readable format "in context".

Patterweb/UTEL provides a wide range of options for constructing text searches, allowing for sophisticated text-database queries. See Search Functions.

The number of results displayed, the amount of surrounding context and the format of the output text can be modified by the user; see Output Display Options.

Search functions

The simplest form of a Patterweb query is a simple word-search To search for occurrences of the word "horse", for example, type the word horse into the "search for" field and press the "Search" button. Patterweb will display occurrences of the word horse as well as a portion of the surrounding context in which the word occurs.

A single-word search identifies only exact occurrences of the specified word; in the above example, instances of the words "horses", "horseman", etc., will not be displayed in the results. To search for words beginning with the character sequence "horse", specify the search pattern as "horse*".

Search Overview: Word Search

The simplest form of a Patterweb query is a search for a single word. To search for occurrences of the word "horse", for example, type the word horse into the "search for" field and press the "Search" button. The input field will look like this:

Search for :


  • Case is not significant. horse, HORSE, and HorSE are equivalent search strings.
  • Do NOT include quotes (single (') or double (")) in the search string.
  • Hyphen (-) is treated as a letter.
  • The input area accommodates 240 characters. This is more than enough for single-word searches, but is useful for more complex search patterns (see below). With graphical browsers, the input window scrolls to the left if more characters are entered than can be displayed at one time.

Phrase search

Searches for phrases (i.e., sequences of words with intervening spaces) are allowed. Enter the phrase in the query input field, separating adjacent words with a space:

Search for :

Alternate Word Search

It is possible to search for more than one word at a time. This can be useful when searching for a word with variant (possibly archaic) spellings (e.g., city, citie). Similarly, it is useful when searching for etymologically related words (e.g., dine,dined,dining).

To search for alternate word-forms, enter words separated by commas in the query input field:

Search for :

Alternate Character Sequences

If the alternate word-forms differ only in a few characters, the alternate-word search pattern can be abbreviated by enclosing the variant part within square brackets ('[', `]') and separating the variant character sequences with commas. For example, the following specifies a search for dine, dined, or dining:

Search for :

An alternate character sequence can be "empty", as in the following search for dine, dined or diner:

Search for :

Alternate character sequences can also be "nested", as in the following search for undertake, overtake, vndertake or ouertake:

Search for :

Proximity searches (near, followed by)

Patterweb allows searches to be constrained according to proximity criteria. It is possible to search for instances of one pattern occurring near, not near, followed by, or not followed by another pattern, as in the following example:

Search for :

Three-level searches

Patterweb supports three-level search queries. This allows for the construction of complex queries that combine three search patterns with two operators.

One application of this feature is querying for "remote proximity" of two search patterns, identifying occurrences of one pattern near (but not very near) a second pattern. For example, to search for occurrences of "queen" within eighty characters but no nearer than twenty-five characters, specify the following query:

Search for :
 : within characters.
 : within characters

Another is to build complex proximity searches:

Search for :
 : within characters.


  • Three-level searches are evaluated cumulatively. That is, the first two patterns are combined with the first operator, and the result is applied to the third pattern using the second operator. ((roman followed-by cathol*) not-near pope) is not the same as (roman followed-by (cathol* not-near pope)).

Restricted text selection

The texts of the University of Toronto English Library are classified according to a variety of features: period, genre, form (verse or prose), and so on.

Patterweb allows the user to restrict searches to texts matching specific criteria.

Output Display Options

Patterweb allows the user to control the appearance and quantity of displayed results.

Display Context Size

The selected context size governs the amount of surrounding text displayed with search results. The selections SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE, and MAXIMUM correspond roughly to one, three, five, and eight lines of text (respectively).

Number of Results

The maximum number of results displayed is selectable. By default, only the first twenty-five results are displayed.