The Web is a wonderful storehouse of information, but finding what you need can be a challenge. Below is a short list of tips designed as a guide to effective searching on the Web. Lori Ricigliano, May 2000.
Your search topic may include verbs, modifiers, and prepositions. Almost without exception, these words are disregarded by search engines or considered too variable to be useful. The main keywords are nouns.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in searching the Web is not using enough keywords. How many is enough? It depends on your topic, but keep the number to no more than six or eight.
It's difficult to identify the right level of specificity for a topic. If the keywords are too broad, then too many results are returned. If they are too narrow, then two few results are returned. Synonyms can provide the right level and ensure proper coverage. Use the Boolean OR to string synonyms together.
Note: Check to make sure you are not using redundant terms.
peregrine falcon, bird
Phrases are a powerful search technique. They require that all terms appear in the exact order shown. Enclose phrases in double quotations " ".
Note: When using proper nouns, bear in mind that most search engines recognize upper versus lower case letters.
The Boolean AND focuses a search by retrieving only those records that contain at least one term or phrase from each concept.
Note: Some search engines require that AND be capitalized, while others do not. The capitalized form will work for all engines.
Limit AND to three or fewer.
Truncation is a technique for retrieving variations in one search term. It works best when the root word is long, when plurals require more than an "s" and, when the root word is not common to other words. Use the * asterisk to indicate truncation.
Some search engines, like Northern Light, Excite, and the Go Network, have automatic truncation.
Put keywords in order of priority. Search engines rank documents by relevance, with first query terms to be evaluated with a higher ranking.
Whenever you mix Boolean operators in a query, you should always use parentheses ( ) to force the order you want.
Without the parentheses, this query would be interpreted as
Most search engines provide options for limiting a search by date, url, language, title, and media. These techniques are easy ways to narrow a search which retrieves too many records. Some limits can be designated by using a pull down menu or text box. Others use a prefix followed by the term to be searched.
Lots of search engines claim to index the entire web, but no one search engine covers everything. It's a good idea to search several for comprehensive coverage as your results will vary. Try a meta search engine (DogPile, The BigHub.com) which searches several individual search engines at once or a specialized search engine (Search Engine Watch or SearchEngineGuide.Com).
Caveat: Meta search engines may retrieve fewer search results in the search engines they visit.