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University Web Search documentation

Oxford University runs an implementation of Funnelback Search to facilitate improved site searching across the Oxford domain.

The appliance is being maintained and managed for the University by IT Services. If you have any problems with the search appliance you should contact the Help Desk. The following sections describe how to use the search engine on your own Oxford site.

The appliance is at

1. Indexing Policy

The University Web Search service crawls across Oxford continuously to update the search index. This ensures the search results are up-to-date. For a site to be indexed by the University Web Search service, pages must:

  • be on an Oxford University web server in the domain;
  • not exclude the search engine by using the Robots Exclusion Protocol;
  • not contain HTML meta tags that prevent indexing;
  • be on a web server that is not excluded from the search collection (see next section);
  • be accessible via links from the Oxford University home page;
  • not require authentication to access the information;
  • be of a file type searchable by the search engine (see Funnelback service description for details on file types);
  • be no larger than 2.5MB for HTML and 30MB for other file types.

If your web site

  • does not meet these criteria, but you would like to see if it can be included; or
  • does meet these criteria, but does not appear in search results

please contact for advice.

2. Excluded web servers

There are a small proportion of web servers that are not currently indexed by the search engine because they cause looping, generate infinite results etc.

We have also excluded all URLs that have a question mark in the URL e.g. or index.php? etc. If you have a site like this and need to have it crawled, please contact . Other types of pages excluded are any that cause repeated visits such as online calendars etc.

3. Adding the Standard Funnelback code to your site

Pointing your site search to the University Web Search service is a straightforward procedure. To apply an Oxford-wide search to your pages you need to add the following code (this is in XHTML):

<form action="//" method="get">
  <input type="text" name="q" value="Enter search term" autocomplete="off">
  <input type="submit" name="submit" value="Search">
  <input type="hidden" name="collection" value="oxford-meta">
  <input type="hidden" name="scope" value=","/>
  <!-- /optional -->
  <input type="hidden" name="homepage" value="">
  <input type="hidden" name="sitename" value="Department of XYZ">
  <input type="hidden" name="logo" value="">
  <input type="hidden" name="logo_alt" value="Department of XYZ - Oxford University">
  <input type="hidden" name="logo_width" value="200">
  <input type="hidden" name="logo_height" value="50">
  <!-- optional/ -->

4. Customising the standard search results

Funnelback has the ability to allow customisation of the search form and the results it sends back. The optional settings listed above highlight the different fields that can be used to customise:

  1. Home page of the site - a url to the home page of the site linking to the search
  2. Site name - the name of the site linking to the search
  3. Logo - the URL of the "logo" to be placedat the top of the search results (with accompanying logo_alt, logo_width, and logo_height)
  4. Scope - a comma-delimited list of URLs that search results should be confined within

5. Customised Search Profiles

Search profiles are made up of one or a series of URLs and given a corresponding name e.g. Chemistry. They allow you to specify what constitutes your search, and enable you to tailor the search results to one or a small group of URLs. They also allow you to fully customise the look and feel of a search results page. If you prefer you can use the generic default 'oxford' profile instead of creating one for your own unit. If you require a profile to be set up for you, please contact The following code sets up an Oxford-wide profile:

<input name="profile" value="oxford" type="hidden">

If you are using your own profile, the value attribute needs to change to the name of the collection you have asked IT Services to create for you. The IT Services collection is called itservices. If you have not requested a collection to be set up for you, but just want to be able to search the whole of Oxford University, keep the value as oxford.

Please note: you can only use one profile name in your search.

6. How to obtain XML formatted search results

On occasion you may require XML formatted search results when you do searches. In order to do this type of search you should set up your web form in the following manner:

<form action="//" method="get"> 

Performing a search with the above form action will present the search results in XML format. The returned search data can now be formatted using your own customised XSL stylesheet and finally presented to the end user, or consumed by automated tools such as a Drupal plug-in (see below).

7. Synonyms

Synonyms can be created to suggest alternate search queries to perform. An example of such a query would be if the name of someone, or indeed something, has one or more alternatives e.g. "President Jones" could be a synonym for "Fred Jones" suggesting that users may make alternate queries for one topic. The use of such synonyms will help users find the information they are seeking. Please contact if you need any synonyms creating for your users.

8. Drupal Funnelback plug-in

With the growing trend of websites across the University using Drupal, many consumers of the search service are beginning to deploy the Funnelback drupal module that consumes XML Funnelback results and displays them within the locally managed Drupal theme.

Details for the module can be found here:

Default settings for the Funnelback Drupal module will allow a site to search across the entire University, so test the procedure with the following settings, but otherwise get in touch if other results are required. 

  • base url:
  • collection: oxford-meta
  • profile: default

For users of the legacy GSA (Google Search Appliance) Drupal module, Funnelback still provides search results via the old GSA URL and query string; however, any changes to existing sites should upgrade to the newer plug-in.

9. Legacy Google Search Appliance service

The Funnelback search service replaces the decommissioned GSA service. However, in an effort to make transition to the new service easier, the old domains ( and are forwarded to the new Funnelback sourced service at

Similarly, parameters provided to the old GSA service are translated on the fly to the new Funnelback sourced service.

Service area: 

Written by IT Services. Latest revision 19 December 2017