The following tips can help you make the most of your searches. Square brackets [ ] are used to show the formatting of words within a search box for specific search queries.

General tips

  • Think how the page you are looking for will be written. Use words most likely to appear on the page. For example, a Mass.Gov website page is more likely to contain the word “child” than the word “kid.”
  • Searches are not case sensitive. Searching for [Department of Early Education and Care] will return the same results as a searching for [department of early education and care].
  • Describe what you need with as few words as possible. By default, only pages that contain all your search words will be included in the results.  
  • After typing your words in the search box, click the Search button or press the Enter key.
  • Every search result includes an excerpt from the page. Your search words will be displayed in bold within the excerpt so you can quickly see them in context and decide whether to visit that page.
  • If you get too many results or too few results, see the tips below.

Tips for getting fewer, better targeted search results

  • If the search box has a drop-down menu, use it to select a specific state agency to get search results from just that agency.
  • Use targeted, specific words instead of broad, general words. For example, a search for [child work permit] would be narrower and more specific than a search for [child labor].
  • Put your most important word first if you are typing a string of words in the search box.
  • Put double quotation marks around a phrase to look for pages with those exact words, in the exact order you’ve typed them. For example, searching for [“special education license”] will give you only pages containing this phrase, while searching for [special education license] will give you pages that contain these individual words, but not necessarily together or in this order.
  • The search engine may look for synonyms of a word typed in the search box. If you don’t want results to include synonyms for a word, enter it in the search box with a plus ("+") sign directly in front of it. For example, adding the plus sign directly in front of the search term [+childcare] tells the search engine to match that word exactly as typed, while results for [childcare] may include pages that contain child care as two words. Be sure to add a space before the plus sign if it is preceded by another word in a string.
  • Exclude pages containing a specific word from search results by typing that word in the search box with a minus ("-") sign directly in front of it, preceded by a space. Typing [child -support] in the search box, for example, will give you pages that include the word child but don’t include the word support. Phrases can also be excluded from search results by putting the minus sign directly in front of a phrase surrounded by quotation marks. Typing [child -“education and development”] will give you pages that include the word child but not the phrase education and development. Please note that there must be a space before the minus sign for this to work.
  • If you are looking for a specific type of file, such as a .pdf, .doc, or .xls, you can restrict your search to that type of file by specifying it in the search box. After entering your search words, leave a space and then add filetype: followed by the relevant three-letter extension. For example, typing [foster child filetype:pdf] will give you a list of .pdf documents related to foster child programs and services.

Tips for getting more search results

  • If the search box has a drop-down menu, use it to select Mass.Gov to get search results from all state agencies.
  • Use broader, more general keywords. For example, a search for [child labor] will generate more results than a search for [child work permit].
  • By default, only pages that contain all of your search words are included in results.  If you’d like to see pages that contain any of the words you enter, and not just pages that contain all of them, type OR (use all capital letters) between the words. For example, searching for [preschool OR kindergarten] will give you pages containing either term, while [preschool kindergarten] will only give you pages containing both terms. The more words you enter in the search box separated by OR, the more results you’ll get.
  • Type an asterisk in the search box as a wildcard or placeholder for any unknown term. For example, if you type [child* regulations], the results will include pages that contain strings of words beginning with the word child and ending with the word regulations, separated by one or more words. Results for this search may include pages containing phrases such as child development regulations, children and families regulations, and child care subsidy regulations.