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Issue with DataTable - how to control null data set?

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I am new to JSF and just getting up to speed. Here is the issue. I am writing an app that will primarily consist of a single page. This page consists of a form with search criteris and a data table with results. I am able to get the data table and SQL to work just fine but now I am making the page more dynamic by adding the search criteria. When the page is first displayed the data table gags, of course, because no search criteria has been entered in yet thus the data set is NULL. How do I control for this? I am using a Delegate pattern with a Controller bean as my backing bean. Here is the snippet from the page that shows the data table:

<h:dataTable border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0"
columnClasses="columnClass1" headerClass="headerClass"
footerClass="footerClass" rowClasses="rowClass1, rowClass2"
id="table2" styleClass="dataTable"
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