Tutorial: Find Clips About Border Sensors

In this example, let’s say you want to learn about the U.S. government’s deployment of electronic sensors along the border with Mexico.

Start out by visiting the section of our database called “Clips.” That’s where we keep all the notes we take when combing through sources of official information.

Here’s the Clips page. It holds snippets of text, brief audio files, and images that we’ve found important enough to hang onto. Keep in mind that we’ve only been adding these notes for a couple of months. As of early 2016, there are fewer than 700 Clips in the entire database, so it could be a while before you find enough of what you’re looking for here.

We’ve tried to design this so that you can get information out of it easily. That mostly happens in the panel on the left of the screen. You can browse the Clips by country, U.S. aid program, tag (“topic”), or government agency. Searching is as easy as typing into the blank at the top, though you can do a more involved search by clicking the “Search” button on the upper left.

Browsing for Clips

Let’s try browsing first. Let’s see what comes up when you choose the “Border Security” tag.

(We’re trying to keep the number of tags down, but there’s a lot going on in Latin America.) Each tag has a number in parentheses next to it; that’s the number of Clips to which we’ve assigned that tag. The tags assigned to the most Clips appear in boldface.

Two things just happened.

In the example pictured here, note that the 70 Clips tagged “Border Security” are also associated with 12 countries, 5 U.S. aid programs, 44 other tags, and 21 government agencies.

45 is still a lot of Clips to read, and we’re just interested in sensors along the border, so we should probably refine further.

Searching for Clips

The “Technology” tag may have captured everything about sensors. Still, it may be best to search the Clips’ text for “sensors” to make sure. We’d recommend doing it this way:

This reveals four Clips about “Border Security” and “Mexico” with the word “sensors” in them. But wait: sometimes, government officials don’t use the plural form, like when they say “sensor technology.”

This time, we still have four Clips. So we’re done.

Just for curiosity’s sake, though, let’s get rid of the “Technology” tag.

Suddenly there are seven relevant Clips. What are these three Clips that match “Mexico,” “Border Security,” and the words “sensor or sensors,” but are not tagged “Technology”?

We can find out, with this advanced move:

This reveals a bunch of search blanks, with your search for “sensor or sensors” filling the first one. Unfortunately, your earlier choices of “Border Security” and “Mexico” got lost here: we’ll find a fix for that in a future version of this page. This isn’t a huge inconvenience, though: you just have to type them in again.

Here are the three Clips that, for some reason, have the words “sensor” or “sensors” in them, are about “Mexico” and “Border Security,” but which we didn’t judge to be about “Technology.”

Why did it turn out that way? It’s hard to say, exactly. Categorizing things is an inexact science, and anyone who has used Google knows that you sometimes need to try a few searches to find what you’re looking for. That’s why it’s often best to try both browses and searches to make sure you’re getting everything that we’ve put into the database.