Each site has a search feature that returns results for any given search term and allows users to filter that search to focus on particular content types. This allows the user to search classes or programs, for instance. The search can return results from the current site or from all CHSS sites, as the user prefers.
At heart, this is a text search. If you search for the word "media" and you get six items in the results, the item that has the word "media" seven times will appear first. The item with the word four times will appear second. And if all of the other items feature the word once, they will appear in a sorted order based on various rules.
As such, the search rewards items that have good content. For example, if you have two courses on media, one from a recently-past semester and another from the current semester, the first one you see will be the one that has a description that uses the word media. If only the past course has a description containing the relevant word, it will appear first. If you keep your items updated with the things your audience needs to know when viewing that item, it will also perform better in search results.
Some content types in CHSSWeb can also be tagged. Those tags are included in the search.
When items are equal, the search sorts them by date. The date varies by content type. For example, events are prioritized by their start date and articles by their creation date. All events are given a boost in the search results if they are very recent and dropped a bit in the results if they are very old.
The content is also somewhat curated to improve results. Because site administrators do not often cull old content, we limit the search somewhat for each content type. Events older than two years do not appear in search results, for instance. These limits help us to present the most relevant results and also to maintain a fast search.
Our search feature displays each resulting item according to its content type. Articles and faculty bios can have images, so they display those images in their search results. Dates are of primary importance for events, so event search results display the relevant dates. And so forth.
This means that items that are not fully updated do not look as compelling in the search results as items that are fully populated. Items with inadequate descriptions will find themselves represented inadequately. For instance, if your degree has no short description text, or if it uses that text to provide administrative details from the catalog, it will look much less compelling than a degree whose short description makes a compelling case for why the degree is interesting and relevant.
When items in the search results are tagged, a tag cloud will appear alongside the results. Users may click on a tag to refocus the search on that term. The resulting search will return both the tagged items and items that have the tag word in their text. The tag cloud refreshes when the user filters the results by type, changes the focus between a single site and all CHSS sites, or pages through results.