Must-Have Open Government Search Tools and Use Tips
The essence of government transparency is accessibility. Today I'll demonstrate how search can instantly link your staff and citizens to information they are looking for. Not only does it drastically reduce the amount of time you spend responding to information requests, but it also saves time for website visitors!
With Granicus, research requests no longer have to be among your top time-consuming tasks. Our Legislative Management Suite comes complete with an online legislative research center which provides powerful research tools for staff and the public. Whether it’s a vote that occurred at last night’s board meeting or a collection of all bills on a building project occurring in a nearby neighborhood, instead of manually locating and responding to requests, you can empower visitors to locate what they are looking for instantly on their own.
If you do not have these must-have transparency tools presented in this post, request a free demonstration from one of our government solutions experts and we'll show you how easy it is to add them!
Legislation Simple Search
The simple search is exactly what it is: simple! Start with just a keyword. If you know the date range and file type, narrow your search with that information. The simple search can search text, attachments, and other info (file type, sponsors, etc.).
Your search results will be displayed immediately below the search box. All keyword matches will be highlighted in yellow. So, let’s say you want to see all legislation relative to the police department that occurred this year: enter “police” in the keyword box and select “This Year” – and presto, you have a comprehensive search narrowed down just as much as you need it.
Further manipulate your search results by using the grouping, sorting, and reporting options. If the search keyword is not immediately visible in search result records, this is because a preview of the text is displayed. Clicking on any record in the search results reveals all of the file text with the keyword match highlighted.
Legislation Advanced Search
While the simple search will generally solve any search request sufficiently, the advance search allows you to enter more specific combinations of search criterion to narrow your search results. Available criteria includes: keyword, type, status, controlling body, date ranges, code sections, sponsors, indexes and attachment names.
Date Range Searching: When you really want to nail down your search results, using date range searching is one of the most effective ways to do it. Available date fields are: the agenda date (date the item appeared on the agenda), the created date (date the agenda item was created), and the final action date (date the agenda item was turned into legislation or otherwise tabled). All of these dates allow you to use range operators:
- Equal (“=”). Selects items that match the exact date you provide.
- Less than (“<”). Selects items with dates prior to the date you provide.
- Greater than (“>”). Selects items with dates after the date you provide.
- Between (“between”). Selects items between the beginning and end dates you provide.
Like the Simple Search, the Advanced Search will look for any keyword in the text file, but you can further refine your search by entering the keyword in the Title field to make sure your keyword is of high importance in your search results.
Combining various kinds of criteria will make your search even more effective. When you add keywords plus dates and combo box fields like File Type or the Status, the search results are filtered down to only items that match all the criteria entered.
Here are some tips to make you an expert when searching:
- Use standard wildcard search variables such as quotes, “and/or”
- Selecting a file type is a great way to narrow your results significantly
- Don’t show more than 100 records at a time, be more specific in your search
- Click on the Legislation tab to clear records from the screen and start with a cleared screen for new searches
- Use the Go Back button to toggle between searches and individual records
- The more search criteria you enter, the more accurate your search results
- Use RSS to have regular searches emailed to you
Group, Sort and Export
For amazingly organized search results use ascending/descending sorting, and group by file type, status, or date and the list will be re-sorted for you automatically with separators for each group.
You can export any search results to Word, Excel or PDF for saving or printing.
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