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In another post I was edited/corrected on the use of "to run a search" instead of "to search", but both terms do not necessarily imply the exact same thing.

To run a search, to my knowledge, has to do more with the act of starting a search, most usually on an automatic search engine. You run a search, and wait some time until it finishes. It has the implicit meaning that you are not the one doing the search, but in this case, the computer.

On the other hand, to search, would most likely make you think that you are the one performing the search, manually looking through a book, document, or set of any of them.

So, how is this sentence subject for an edit, from this:

Many times I've run searches across several books for the usage of some words and many times I've found my results quite contradictory.

to this?

Many times I searched across several books for the usage of some words and many times I've found my results quite contradictory.

Don't you agree that besides being unnecessary, it even loses much of the original meaning? Basically because the running of a search, as I said, automatically implied that the books searched for were online or digital books, and when turned into a simple "searched" that extra piece of information is gone, and those once digital books now may appear to be regular paper books.

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I agree in this context. But "Google Search" is actually a term, so "to run a google search" makes sense in other usages. – abhinav Dec 20 '11 at 8:34
There's a lot of peeving in this post disguising a legitimate question. Please try to rephrase your question so it doesn't sound like I hate X, don't you? – onomatomaniak Dec 20 '11 at 8:46
@onomatomaniak I'm sorry, but this post has nothing to do with hate nor with the person who made it. It's totally objective. I'm just asking if a given phrase, in a given context, is, in your opinion, subject to correction or not. – Eduardo Dec 20 '11 at 9:15
@Jasper I see. I will keep that in mind for future references. In this particular case I felt the original meaning was modified, but before editing an edit (I don't know if it's considered rude or not) I felt it would be nice or polite to ask for advice. – Eduardo Dec 20 '11 at 9:23
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The phrasing run a search didn't really take off until the last couple of decades...

...which accords with my belief that it's primarily a computer-oriented expression related to run a program. There are few references before the 60s, when computers started to be used by businesses - and for the first couple of decades after that, almost all references explicitly mention computers.

So in answer to OP's question, it's probably undesirable to run a search of non-electronic data - superfluous and potentially misleading.

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I agree with all you said until the conclusion, because the search was actually done/run on electronic data; it was an online standard google books search. So the conclusion (which is also a valid and true statement by itself), just doesn't exactly seem to apply to this case. – Eduardo Dec 20 '11 at 18:31
@Eduardo: Ah. You don't explicitly say in the question whether you used electronic/computer tools for your searches. Apparently you did, so I should probably have phrased my last sentence the other way around. In some contexts (probably including yours) it's actually better to include "run a" if you want to imply/emphasise that the actual searching was done by machines. I stand by my words, obviously, but the actual answer to your question is that your original wording was perfectly good. Whoever changed it was at the very least over-zealous, and arguably even degraded the text. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '11 at 22:27

I agree there is a difference. Run a search is used almost entirely in the context of electronic data. However, in the absence of any additional indication that your search actually was conducted in such a context, I think the edit was understandable. I’m also interested by the use of across several books. Is that any different from in several books?

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I usually use "across" when the search is broad in nature, for example you can run a search across a big database formed by many tables or a database cluster. Maybe I would run a search "in" a database if it was a small (possibly microsoft access) database. I think it has to do with the idea of moving "across" many different "distant" elements, against the idea of searching in just one place or container. – Eduardo Dec 20 '11 at 11:10

As Barrie England rightly pointed out, in the absence of other strong indicators that the search was essentially online, the editor must naturally have felt that the sentence incorrectly uses run, and to avoid giving an impression that the search was online, modified suitably.

I do not see any controversy other than a misunderstanding between the author and the editor.

As the author of the OP, it may have been possible for you to reverse the change immediately and post a comment, though I do not know if there is any thing technical preventing you from doing so.

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I didn't undo the edit mainly because I wanted to consult with you guys first, and also in an attempt to be polite at the same time. I think that in order for someone to edit or correct someone else, he has to be pretty sure that the other person is wrong and that what you are going to write is right. A little consultation on any matter is always welcomed. – Eduardo Dec 20 '11 at 9:39
The strong indicator (at least for me) was my using of "to run a search" instead of "to search". But well it just seems to have been a misunderstanding in this subtleness. – Eduardo Dec 20 '11 at 9:49
One point is that it's not relevant to the thrust of your question, how the search was conducted, only that the search happened. Hence "run a" is two words that serve no purpose in presenting your question. – slim Dec 20 '11 at 17:18
@slim Actually I think it's the opposite case. When I read that someone has run a search on something, I immediately relate that search to a computer based search. Computer based searches usually cover much more bibliographic material of what is humanly possible. This fact plus the fact that the search has been run "across" many books, gives the idea that the search was run on many many books (at the very least hundreds not to say thousands or millions) in contrast to the ten or so books (twenty?) that could be considered "many" if the search would have been specified to be done manually. – Eduardo Dec 20 '11 at 18:20

The phrase "I searched across several books" does indeed bring to mind an image of someone with a stack of books on a table, looking through them. You could avoid the phrase "run a search" by describing the means you used to search. For example:

"Many times I've used Google to search across several books for the usage of some words and many times I've found my results quite contradictory."

I also note that your original tense ("many times I've done 'X' ...") seems more natural to me in this context than the editor's ("many times I did 'X' ...").

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