Getting Started with OSF Search

OSF Search is your destination for discovering all content types across the platform, including results for registrations, preprints, projects (and related components), files, and users in one easy to use interface. The OSF Search page can be used for searching, browsing, or both.

Each search result includes key metadata to help you determine if these are the results you are looking for, as well as a "Context" section in each result that provides a preview of the metadata fields that reference your search term.

Refine your search results or browse the entire OSF using specialized filters, including supporting funder, institutions, resource type, related materials, and more.

Finally, remember to make your own OSF research as discoverable as possible by adding robust metadata and making it public.


Video Description: Follow along with a clip of our training OSF 101 videos to learn about searching on the OSF. For more information or full-length videos see our training and live events page

Navigating to the OSF Search Page 

You can always navigate to the OSF search page by clicking "Search" at the top navbar on any OSF page, or navigate to

Selections and searches found on the OSF Registries landing page will also lead to the OSF Search page.

Searching by Term 

  • In the search bar, enter a search term (#1) and then click the magnifying glass (#2) or hit the "Enter" key. Your search term can be as short, long, specific, or general as you like.

  • Several wild cards are also enabled.  (For more information about wild cards, visit the OSF Dictionary)

  • To search for an exact phrase, enclose the phrase in quotation marks (ie "open science").

  • To exempt results that contain a term, use a minus sign and then the term (ie -open).

  • The two wildcards can also be combined (ie -"open science").

Interpreting Your Search Results

The total number of results for your query is presented in the top left.  If there are more than 10,000 results, it will only read "10,000+ results".  Modify your query or use filters to reduce and specify your results.

The search result cards provide a preview of the content within, with the key metadata based on the object type.

All result cards will have a "Context" section. This section will preview exactly where your search term appears as part of this object, including a snippet of this relevant section. Your search term will be italicized. 

The results will be one of the following that correspond to major tools of the OSF, as indicated on the result card.

Sort results: 

Once you have refined your result list based on the OSF Smart Facets, you can sort your results based on:

  • Relevance
  • Date Created, Newest
  • Date Created, Oldest 
  • Date Modified, Newest 
  • Date Modified, Oldest

How does the OSF determine relevance?

For blank searches of all of the OSF:

When a user first opens the OSF Search page, and no search terms have been entered, the OSF just retrieves a random set of results and returns that with the idea that you are seeing a sample of what is in OSF

For specific searches using terminology:

For the result of a search query, the algorithm we use to determine relevance is the default provided by the tool the OSF uses for indexing, Elasticsearch ( Specifically, that algorithm is called Okapi BM25 ( Simplistically, the algorithm looks at all the words in the text (in this case the metadata record) and compares the total number of times the query words appear. That general idea is used in lots of ranking algorithms and is called TF-IDF (term frequency-inverse document frequency)

Example: if the query term appears 10 times in a 100-word record that would be a higher frequency compared to a record where the term appears 25 times in a 1,000,000-word document. So while the term appears more frequently, it occurs less often compared to the size of the text

The way that terms are combined and used in the query differs from what our previous syntax was — the use of things like parentheses, + or - signs no longer affect results, there are no stop words, phrases in quotes will be exactly matches and MUST be present.

Refine Results Or Browse by OSF Object Types

Use the object type filters above the search results to limit your results to a specific OSF object type, or display all object types. 

The available object types are:

Refine Results Using Enhanced Filters

Which filters can I use to refine my search? 

Filters allow users to refine their search results based on a set of criteria. These filters are dynamic in nature and will change the number of results and even add or reduce the other populating filters based on which items you select so that you aren't provided with filters that don't have helpful information. Each option within the filters will also display the number of results that will be available if you make that selection.

Types of Filters:

Filter: Definition: 
Date Created  Allows you to create ranges of time when the results were created and posted. 
Funder Filter by specific funders listed on the metadata of the result
Subject Filter based on the disciplines that you can choose for registrations and preprints
License Filter based on the license type of the results 
Resource Type (General) An alternative way to filter based on resources in OSF metadata. See more here: Resource type in OSF  
Institution  Filter based on current OSF institution members. Only current paid members will populate 
Provider  Provider corresponds to service providers located within the OSF
Is part of a collection  Filter for materials that are part of Collections on the OSF
Registration Template  If you are searching for registrations you can filter by the template used during the creation 
Data Filter by different data types 
Subject Filter by subject type
Includes Community Schema Find OSF content with attached community metadata standards via CEDAR. See more here: CEDAR and data management

How to search within a filter

If you are browsing within a filter and there are still too many results, you can refine your search term or you can add additional facets to find the specific works that you are interested in exploring. To do this you will need to:

  • click on the facet drop-down arrow:  

The values within the filter that have the most relevant results will be listed. To find additional values:

  • Click "See More" at the bottom of the list. If the "See more" link is not available all known results are currently displaying. 

A pop-up will appear. You can then search for the specific value that you are looking for. Only relevant results will populate.

  • Select a value and click "Apply". This will apply the funders to your search criteria.

Choosing the correct resources  

After you have refined your search you will see a list of results. The preview version of that Project, Registration, Preprint, file or User will display. Each will display the metadata most relevant to that object type, indicating what is included in that resource. To see a full expanded version of the previewed resource click the {V} arrow button to expand the available metadata. 

All results on your list will be populated with the following: 

  • A Gray box indicates if the resource is a Project, registration, Preprint, file, or User. (#1)
  • Title with link to the resource (#2)
  • Contributors or authors (#3)
  • Date created or registered (#4)
  • Context and keywords (#5)
  • Dropdown arrow for more information (#6)
    • Description (#7)
    • License (#8)
    • URL (#9)
    • Digital Object Identifier (DOI) (#10)

Registrations include unique items: 

  • List of connected open resources (#11)
  • Inside Drop-down Arrow 
    • Descriptions (#12)
    • Registration provider (#13)
    • Registration templates (#14)

Branded Preprint Search Database: 

If you are interested in searching the OSF and the SHARE database for Preprints check out our search platform on the OSF: Discover preprints. For more information about searching for Preprints see our help guide: Search and Discover Preprints 

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