Advanced Search Options for Filtering

In circumstances when you know exactly what type of data you need from the VertNet portal, we recommend that you use the Advanced Search options. For example, to find all occurrences of elephant skulls across VertNet, there are many ways to query the data, but we recommend the following 6-step method to discover the records you need AND to filter out the records you do not.

NOTE: STEP 1 is included as a comparison between the use of the full text/keyword field against the use of the Advanced Search options. Also note that the number of records returned in this query are based on the content of the Vertnet portal as of 26Aug2014. Results may vary over time.

STEP 1: Search

First, go to main VertNet search page (Step 1a) and type Elephantidae into the full text/keyword field. Click the blue search button (with the magnifying glass icon) or use the Enter/Return key on your keyboard (Step 1b). You should have received 2,995 records in a list below the search field (Step 1c). Because this is just a keyword search ALL of the records within VertNet that contain the term "Elephantidae" will be returned. This term could be in any field contained within the record, not just in the taxonomy. Step 1a search

Step 1a - VertNet Portal Search Page

Step 1b search

Step 1b - Full Text Search

Step 1c search

Step 1c - Search Results

STEP 2: Review

If you’re looking just for the skulls of Elephantidae, 2,995 records may involve a lot of manual organizing and sorting to identify which records are of interest to you. You can use the portal to perform some (even all) of this pre-selection of records for you.

To narrow the results, refresh your browser to obtain a clean search page (Step 2a). Next, use the Advanced Search option, which can be found by clicking the "More search options" link on the far right side of the full text/keyword field (Step 2b). Once clicked, you’ll see more than a dozen additional options to help you discover the records you need (Step 2c). Step 2a search

Step 2a - VertNet Portal Search Page

Step 2b search

Step 2b - More Search Options

Step 2c search

Step 2c - Additional Options Expanded

STEP 3: Advanced Search

Use the Advanced Search box to discover which records represent actual occurrences of Elephantidae and filter out records that contain this term in any field other than within taxonomy (e.g., you probably don’t want an occurrence that includes "Elephantidae" in a field such as "field note" within a Panthera record - "...specimen pelt shows evidence of scarring, possibly from Elephantidae...").

To do this, you can search by specific fields, such as Family (you can review a complete list of the fields you can use in a search in the Portal Syntax Tip: Field-specific Keyword Search Guide). Type family:Elephantidae (just like that, with no spaces) into the "All These Words" field, and click the blue search button (Step 3a). Step 3a search

Step 3a - Using a Filter

40 records have been filtered out from our original search, leaving us with 2,955 - all records contain Elephantidae in the Family taxonomic field. A good start.

NOTE: If you're using a large monitor, you'll see the search results populate directly underneath the Advanced Search box. If you're working on a laptop or using a small window, you'll have to scroll down to see the results. You do not have to close the Advanced Search box to see any of your results (Step 3b). Step 3b search

Step 3b - Scroll to See Results

STEP 4: Filter

You can filter further by adding skulls to your search. Simply type the word skull into the "Any of these words" field and click the blue search button again (Step 4a). Step 4a search

Step 4a - Adding a Second Filter

The addition of the term skull resulted in a significant reduction in the number of records returned to 269. Now you have a dataset that contains all the records within VertNet that contain BOTH the term Elephantidae in the dwc:Family taxonomic field AND the term skull within any of the fields contained within a given record.

NOTE: It is a good idea to try your searches using similar or multiple terms to see if you can discover additional records for use. When searching for records with skulls, you may also wish to use terms such as skeleton or skel or jaw. Step 4b search

Step 4b - Scroll to See Results

STEP 5: Download

Download the dataset by clicking the green "Download" button at the top right of the list of records (Step 5). If your dataset is less than 1000 records, the portal will simply ask you to name your dataset and it will commence with the download. If your dataset is 1000 records or more, you'll have to both name your dataset and provide an email address to which we can send you a link to the requested dataset once it's ready. You should know that it can take some time for the system to prepare your dataset. Most requests take less than 10 minutes, but larger datasets can take an hour or longer. Step 5 search

Step 5 - Download Results

STEP 6: Open

The file you've downloaded on your local machine, is a text, or .TXT file. For most users, if you double-click to open the file, it will automatically open within your default text editor, such as Notepad (PC) or TextEdit (Mac). To open it in another application, such as Excel or a different text editor like WordPad (PC) or TextWrangler (Mac), you'll need to right-click on the file and Open With the application of your choice. You can review our help guide on Opening Downloads in Excel for additional instruction.


If, prior to downloading the dataset, you want to reduce your search result more, you can repeat STEP 4 as many times you wish, each time adding one or more terms or filter.

Also, once you become more familiar with the portal, you may not ever need to go to the Advanced Search box because you can type in each of these terms directly into the main full text/keyword field on main search page (Step 7). So your search to get the dataset of 269 would look like:

family:Elephantidae skull Step 7 search

Step 7 - Full Text with Keyword Search from Search Page

And don't forget, that once you've clicked the search button, the URL of the search page reflects the search you have just conducted. You can bookmark or copy/paste the link to your search so you can get to it again, directly, any time in the future. In this case, the link would be: In fact, anyone with that link can use it, so if you email it to a colleague, the two of you can look at the same results together.

If you have any questions about this document, please contact VertNet's support team.

Visit our Help page for more resources created for the VertNet project.

Orig Release, 26Aug2014 (David Bloom)