Search instructions

There are three ways for retrieving information on Aila: Basic, Advanced and Expert search. The search engine has been created with the open source Apache Solr. The Basic and Advanced searches allow you to search study descriptions and questions/variables in Finnish or in English as well as study series and publications related to archived data. The Expert search allows you to search from all fields with more complex search strings. You can also browse data in different ways, for instance, by keyword, topic, and series.

Search result lists are sorted by relevance as given by the search engine. You can save the results page in your browser.

Thesauri and controlled vocabularies used: Field of study classification by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture , CESSDA Topics Classification, General Finnish Thesaurus (YSA) for study descriptions in Finnish and ELSST thesaurus for study descriptions in English. In addition, FSD uses controlled vocabularies developed by the DDI Alliance to describe the type of sampling procedure , mode of collection , time method , type of instrument and analysis unit used in the study.

Operating principles of the Basic and Advanced search

The Basic search targets all metadata fields. The results for study descriptions and questions/variables can be filtered by the type or availability of data, or by data file language. Separate result lists are presented for studies, questions/variables, publications and series.

The search is case insensitive. The search terms are truncated automatically in the Basic search and in the text fields of the Advanced search so that all inflected forms are accounted for. You can use an asterisk as a wildcard character in all fields except fields with time/dates.

In the Advanced search, you can narrow your search down to studies/study series, questions/variables or publications, either in Finnish or in English. You can enter search terms into several fields at one go and choose either AND or OR as the Boolean operator between the fields. If you enter more than one search term within one field, the system automatically places the OR operator between the terms. If you want to change it to AND, write AND between the search terms. A useful feature available in several search fields is predictive text which suggests up to 20 possible search elements to select from. The Advanced search also allows you to filter the results according to the time method of the study and analysis/observation unit type.

Language choices in Aila

There are three languages choices users can make in Aila.

  1. Search interface language
    The default language for registered users is the language selected during registration.
    The choice can be changed at the top right corner of each page. This choice only affects the display language in search interfaces and the data catalogue, that is, the field names, instruction texts etc. and has no impact on search results.
  2. Language of the metadata
    This is the in Finnish / in English choice in the Basic, Advanced and Expert search. The choice determines the language of study descriptions as well as of questions and variables. Aila contains study descriptions of all archived studies in both languages. However, you can only find questions and variables in English if the data collection originally took place in that language or if the data archive has subsequently translated them to allow foreign researchers to use the data. If you enter a search term in English and get no relevant results, your language choice has probably been left as in Finnish.
  3. Data file language
    This is the Data File Language filter in the left column in Advanced search. This choice allows you to do searches at study level (e.g. by keyword, title, abstract etc) but still restrict your results to only those studies where the data files are actually already available in English, i.e. the variables (question texts and response categories) or interview transcripts are in English, either translated or collected in that language. This way you do not need to wait for the data archive to translate the data for you.

If you do not speak Finnish and are looking for data to use in your research, use Advanced search and select English in all of these three language choices. If you do not find relevant data, remove the tick from English in Data file language choice. Now you will be able to search datasets that have study descriptions in English (=all archived datasets) but where the data files themselves are not yet available in English. If you find relevant data this way, the FSD translates quantitative data (questions and response categories) into English on request, free of charge, for users who do not speak Finnish. You can request translation through Aila. Qualitative data are available in their original language only.

Operating principles of the Expert search

The Expert search allows you to write complex search strings. Search terms must be truncated using the character *. The search can be focused to studies, questions & variables or publications, as well as individual fields in Finnish or English.

More information on the search syntax: Lucene query syntax and Solr query syntax

Search syntax for the Expert search

Individual fields are searched by syntax:

name_of_field:search term

For example, you can search for studies about universities by entering the following syntax:


Phrase search, searching for multiple consecutive words

For phrase search, place search terms within quotation marks. For instance, you can search for question text or study name:

Select Questions&Variables above the search box

question_literal:”renewable energy”

Select Studies above the search box

study_title:”youth survey”

Using the wildcard

You can use * as a wildcard to clip search terms, also in the beginning or in the middle. If you want to search for all data with the word ‘elections’ in the title, you can use the following syntax for searching:


Boolean operators

You can use the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT in the search. The operators must be written in capital letters. For example, if you want to search for studies that investigated the employment of Tampere University graduates, you can enter the following search syntax:

employment AND tampere AND university AND graduates

Searching for timespan

You can search for studies by the start and end date of the data collection or by the time period which the study addresses, or you can combine the time search with other search fields to narrow down your search. For example:

Time period refers to the time that the data covers:

time_periods_date:[2015-01-01T00:00:00Z TO 2015-12-31T00:00:00Z]

The dates of collecting the data

collection_dates_date:[2014-01-01T00:00:00Z TO 2015-12-31T00:00:00Z]

The first publishing date of the archived dataset in Aila

publishing_date:[2011-01-01T00:00:00Z TO 2015-12-31T00:00:00Z]

The year when a publication related to the archived dataset was published.

publication_date:[2015-01-01T00:00:00Z TO 2015-12-31T00:00:00Z]

Negative Search

A negative search can also be used. For example, you can search for studies that lack research instrument by placing “-“ in front of the field name. For example


If you wish to search for data on universities but would like to exclude those focusing on Tampere university only, you can use the following syntax, for example:

study_title:universities AND –study_title:tampere

Search Fields

Study Search

Text Fields
fsdid_stringStudy (=archived dataset) number
study_titleStudy title
alternative_study_titleAlternative study title
data_versionVersion of the data
other_identificationsPeople connected with the study but other than the main data creator
producersProducers of the study
data_collectorsCollectors of the data
data_sourcesSource of the data, for example, register data, newspaper articles
data_appraisalsAdditional information to observe when using the dataset
originating_archivesOriginating archieve
sampling_procedureSampling procedure used
collection_modesData collection methods used for the data
completenessCompleteness information reveals if part of the data has not been archived, for example, due to data protection or some other reason.
nationsCountries covered in the data
geographic_coveragesTotal geographic coverage of the data
universesUniverse/sample of the data
bibliographic_citationA model citation for the archived dataset
weightingsPossible weights used to produce accurate statistical results in quantitative research
special_permissionSpecial permissions required to use the dataset
study_authorsAuthors, that is, original creators of the data. May also be organisations.
serie_nameSeries name. FSD attaches studies to study series. A series typically consists of repeated studies by the same author or organisation about the same subject matter
serie_descriptionSeries description. FSD attaches studies to study series. A series typically consists of repeated studies by the same author or organisation about the same subject matter
topic_classification_valuesTopic classification / Field of study
keywordsKeywords which describe the content of the data
research_instrumentsResearch instruments used in data collection
analysis_unitsAnalysis/Observation unit type
time_methodsTime method or time dimension of data collection, e.g., longitudinal or cross-section
data_kind_stringThe type of data included in the data files
Timespan search fields
time_periods_dateThe time period covered by the data.
collection_dates_dateCollection dates of the data
publishing_dateThe first publishing date of the study (=archived dataset) in Aila

Variable Search

Text fields
fsdid_stringStudy (=archived dataset) number
study_titleStudy title
alternative_study_titleAlternative study title
question_literalThe literal question as it appears on the questionnaire
variable_labelA short explanation of the question or the variable
group_pre_textText preceding a group of questions
pre_question_textText preceding the question
post_question_textText following the question
interviewer_instructionThe interviewer’s instructions
category_labelsThe response options
nationsNations covered in the data files
time_methodsTime method or time dimension of data collection, e.g., longitudinal or cross-section
serie_nameSeries name. FSD attaches studies to study series. A series typically consists of repeated studies by the same author or organisation about the same subject matter
data_kind_stringThe type of data covered in the file
Timespan search fields
time_periods_dateThe first publishing date of the study (= archived dataset) in Aila

Publication Search

Text fields
publication_titlePublication title
publication_authorsAuthors of the publication
related_fsdids_study_titlesThe title and id number of the archived study utilised in the publication.
serie_namesSeries name of the dataset. FSD attaches studies to study series. A series typically consists of
repeated studies by the same author or organisation about the same subject matter
Timespan search fields
publication_datePublishing year of the publication

Series Search

Text fields
serie_id_stringSeries number
serie_titleSeries title
description_html_strippedDescription of the series with html tags removed.