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ECFS & EDOCS Search -

Overview of ECFS and EDOCS searching and the FCC website.


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Keyword Searching - General

ECFS can perform a full text search of documents via a keyword search field.  However, because a full-text keyword search can result in a large number of irrelevant results, identifying effective keywords is an important first step.  Below are some general tips on identifying relevant keywords for a full-text search:

  • Identify the major concept or identify specific names or entities.
  • Create a list of potential synonyms, jargon, or common abbreviations of the main concepts, entities, or names.
  • Avoid using long phrases. (Exception: when performing an exact phrase search.)

Example: You need to find any documents on the issue of individual privacy protections and the use of the internet.

Step 1 Identify the major concepts of this statement:  Individual, privacy, and internet

Step 2 Potential synonyms, abbreviations, and jargon: privacy protections, personal information, telecommunication service, identifiable information, BIAS (broadband internet service), etc.  *Using jargon as a search term is a great way to effectively and efficiently identify potential items, as jargon is inherently specific.  

For example, many FCC documents use "broadband" to refer to cable.  Using broadband as a search term would provide a more effective search, as it is used in a specific way and replaces the much more common term cable.

Once you have identified potential keywords, you will want to use the database's advanced search techniques to create an effective and efficient search. This is discussed below.  Note that you do not have to use all of the keywords in a search; the purpose of having a list is to prepare for doing multiple searches using different combinations of the identified keywords, if necessary, to find pertinent items.


Advanced Search Techniques

Boolean Operators (and, or, not) and connectors can be used in the full-text search field (listed below).  This allows for a targeted search that is similar to the method of searching that is used in databases such as Westlaw and Lexis.  However, compared to the search functionality of Westlaw and Lexis, ECFS has limited advanced search capabilities.

AND* Searches for all the terms and only brings up results when all search terms are found.
OR* Searches for any of the search terms and brings up any result in which any of the terms are found.
NOT* When placed in front of a term it filters the results to ignore the term.
"  " Searches for the exact phrase.

*These Boolean Operators must be capitalized in order for the ECFS database to read it as a search command.  

When using multiple words in the full-text search box the ECFS database will use an implied "and" in between each word and will only pull up results where it finds all of the search terms. 

**Note: the ECFS database does not process multiple Boolean operators well; multiple searches using different combinations of keywords may be necessary.  Identifying targeted keywords is particularly helpful when using a limited search interface.

Below is a short video that demonstrate the steps in performing a full-text search in ECFS, using the keywords identified above, in conjunction with the advanced search techniques.

First, navigate to the ECFS search page.  You will use the "Search Full Text" field within the search interface.

Second, once you've done a search, change the ordering of the results list to relevance.  This will reorder the results so that the items that have the highest incidence of search terms in the text will be at the beginning of the list. (The default sort order is by date.)

Third, you'll notice that a full-text keyword search brings up a large number of results.  As it is not possible to create a complex keyword search using parentheses, "within" commands, and wildcards, as you would do in Westlaw or Lexis, using the additional fields is helpful to find pertinent items.  (See below for more information.)

Limiting Results by Using Additional Fields

Additional information, not included in the full-text search field, can be used to create a more effective search. If you have any other type of identifying information, such as a date range, an author's or attorney's name, or document type, it can be included in one of the other fields in the search interface. 

These fields include:

  • Name of filer, law firm, attorney or author
  • Date ranges for comments, replies, receiving, and posted
  • City, state, or zip
  • File number, bureau ID number, DA or FCC number
  • Filing type

See the section on Docket or Document Number Search for more information.


Let's continue with the terms identified in the example above  - privacy and internet service.  I also know that I'm looking for a proposed rulemaking that was issued in 2015 or 2016.

As you recall, the full-text keyword search demonstrated above produced over 800 results -- too many to wade through.  

However, the ECFS search interface allows you to combine a full-text keyword search with a field search. Doing a combined search can be a very effective way to find pertinent documents. The video below demonstrates the steps of a combined keyword full-text and field search.

Important Notes:

  • You can also filter search results on the results page, rather than using the fields on the main search page.
  • If a combined search results in zero results you will most likely need to modify the search words used.  A basic keyword search concept is that when you get zero, or a very small number of results, modify the search using a more general keyword, stop using an exact phrase, or use an alternate keyword from your list of synonyms, jargon, etc.  

The example used in the video below demonstrates modifying the search terms - by getting rid of the exact phrases, using a broader search term (privacy), and replacing the more common term "internet," with the more specific jargon "broadband."