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When you don’t know where a document resides in SharePoint or you simply don’t want to spend time navigating numerous directories, search comes in handy.

If you want employees to embrace SharePoint, show them the fastest ways to get tasks done using the system’s features. This includes showing them the fastest ways to find documents using SharePoint’s search tool. Because many end users spend a considerable amount of time using SharePoint search, mastery of the most efficient methods for searching and otherwise getting things done will help them avoid frustration and be more productive.

When you use SharePoint search efficiently, you save time. There are several ways to do that. It’s all about finding the right result first time, with a single query.

Skimming Through Search Results Wastes Time

The default approach of most SharePoint users is to type a broad keyword into the search box, use results refiners, and skim through the results in order to find the needed document. The problem with that approach is that using a broad keyword reduces the chances of finding the document you need. Moreover, refining the initial results just adds additional steps to the task and skimming through extraneous results consumes a lot of time.

If you go through all of those steps every time you conduct a search, you are wasting time. If you do that many times a day over a long period of time, your productivity suffers. And user adoption may stagnate if all employees think SharePoint searches always involve so many steps.

Mastering the best approaches to SharePoint search is paramount.

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The Efficient Way to Use SharePoint Search

Scrolling, filtering and clicking through vast lists of possible results is unnecessary.

To be more productive when using SharePoint search, always use a query that will deliver relevant results the first time, instead of vague queries that tend to generate too many partially relevant results.

Please note: To make sure that SharePoint actually generates the intended search results, make sure that the indexing is done, and that you have the right permissions. A document that hasn’t been indexed will not show up on the search results page. Notify your IT team to have the issue fixed. Also, very importantly, ensure that every document is uploaded with metadata.

Here are three ways to improve the productivity of SharePoint searches: Search locally, use search operators, and use the advanced search tool.

Search Locally

If you know the site or the library where the document resides, to save time, go there and conduct your search locally.

By limiting your search to a specific library, for example, you will eliminate extraneous results and focus your efforts only on the most relevant search results.

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Use Search Operators

The quality of SharePoint’s search engine output depends on how specific your query is. For example, suppose that you want to find a white paper titled “Onboarding Process.” Instead of just typing the broad term “onboarding process” in the search box, type at least two other terms, such as the author and the main content keywords.

Your query might look like this: “onboarding process” author:johnson* training OR support.

Use Advanced Search

For more control, use the advanced search tool, which generates results using logic. Use a set of descriptions just large enough to make the query sufficiently specific. Too many parameters may slow down the processing.

Using advanced search eliminates the need for potentially excessive refining and skimming through results. The approach actually improves the overall user experience.

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Always Take the Most Efficient Approach to Search

Even though the suggested results feature in the latest SharePoint interface improves the user experience considerably, searching locally, using search operators and using advanced search remain the most efficient ways to search in SharePoint.

Also, while very useful, results refiners tend to add more steps to the task and prolong the amount of time it takes to find a document — and furthermore, the multiplicity of steps can be a barrier to user adoption. Instead of using broad keywords and relying on results refiners, develop the habit of using narrow keywords and taking the shortest path to the right results.

Taking the three approaches above, you have a better chance of finding the right document the first time. In the long run, you will save a lot of time, significantly improving your productivity.