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Search Engines Internet search sites can search enormous databases of Web pages, using titles, keywords or text. You can maximize the potential of search engines by learning how they work, and how to use them quickly and effectively. The challenge is to ask your question the right way, so that you don't end up overwhelmed with too many search results, underwhelmed with too few, or simply unable to locate the material that you need. As with most skills, practice makes perfect! Getting Started Before doing a search, it's important to define your topic as completely and succinctly as possible. Write down exactly what information you're looking for, why you're looking for it, and what you're not looking for. This will help you to discover the best keywords for your search. Keywords With the exception of search engines such as AskJeeves.com, which will take questions in the form of actual queries, most work best if you provide them with several keywords. So how do you determine which keywords will work best? Most users submit 1.5 keywords per search, which is not enough for an effective query - the recommended maximum is 6 to 8 carefully chosen words, preferably nouns and objects. (Search engines consider articles and pronouns clutter.) Avoid verbs, and use modifiers only when they help to define your object more precisely - as in "feta cheese" rather than just "cheese." Now you have your keywords. How do you enter them into the search engine? Use of Phrases Your most powerful keyword combination is the phrase. Phrases are combinations of two or more words that must be found in the documents you're searching for in the EXACT order shown. You enter a phrase - such as "feta cheese" - into a search engine, within quotation marks. Some searches provide specific options for phrases, while others don't allow them at all; but most will allow you to enter a phrase in quotation marks. Check the "Help" files of the search engine you're using to be sure what it accepts. Punctuation and Capitalization Most search engines are insensitive to case: you can type your queries in uppercase, lowercase, or a mix of cases. If you use lowercase, most engines will match on both upper and lower case; so for general searches, lowercase is the safest form to use.
as in "solar system" Spell carefully. Remember that AND NOT only applies to the word or phrase that immediately follows it. AND means "I want only documents that contain both/all words. Boolean Basics "Boolean" searching (named after George Boole. OR and AND NOT. but not if the document also contains another word. Never use articles ("a. Most search engines support the AND NOT command. Use OR to string together synonyms. consult the "Help" file. such as pornography. I don't care which." "or") or prepositions ("to. Before you apply AND NOT." "from") in your queries Use 6 to 8 keywords per query Where possible." "it"). but not those that also include Buckingham Palace. It is sometimes called BUT NOT or NOT. see what results you get from a simpler search. be careful about mixing it with AND. combine keywords into phrases by using quotation marks. and consider alternate spellings Avoid redundant terms Check the "Help" function of the particular search engine you're using. AND is the most frequently used Boolean command. Boolean searches are simple to learn and tremendously effective." The query "London" AND "Big Ben" AND NOT "Buckingham Palace" would return documents that include London and Big Ben. and is sometimes indicated by placing a minus sign (-) before the term or phrase to be removed. the 19th-century mathematician who founded the field of symbolic logic) is a powerful technique that can narrow your search to a reasonable number of results." For instance. OR means "I want documents that contain either word. The three most commonly used Boolean commands (or "operators") are AND." The query "London" OR "Big Ben" OR "Buckingham Palace" OR "Trafalgar Square" would return all documents that contained even one of these four keywords or phrases. conjunctions ("and. the search "London" AND "Big Ben" AND "Buckingham Palace" AND "Trafalgar Square" would return only documents that contained all four keywords or phrases. AND NOT is a great way to weed out results you don't want. (Check the search tips of the engine you're using to see which form of AND NOT it accepts). Quick Tips Use nouns as query keywords. since they all have their own quirks and preferences .Not all search engines handle punctuation the same way. pronouns ("he. and increase the chance of those results being useful. When in doubt." "the"). AND NOT means "I want documents that contain this word.
finding what you need can be like finding a needle in a haystack. click on the link to practice the technique with AltaVista's search engine. With a search engine. SEARCH ENGINES Search engines are very different from subject directories." The search engine scans its database and returns a file with links to websites containing the word or words specified. check out Search Engine Watch. and much more. This site has the latest information about the best search engines available. search engines often return thousands of results. keywords related to a topic are typed into a search "box. When a "practice" link appears. patience and ingenuity. Because these databases are very large. Below are a number of strategies for boosting search engine performance. Without search strategies or techniques. to find information on what the FCC has said about the wireless communications industry.A successful Internet search can take several tries. IDENTIFY KEYWORDS When conducting a search. the keywords might be: FCC wireless communication BOOLEAN AND Connecting search terms with AND tells the search engine to retrieve web pages containing ALL the keywords. it is essential to apply techniques that narrow results and push the most relevant pages to the top of the results list. FCC and wireless and communication . To use search engines effectively. For example. break down the topic into key concepts.with no master system for organizing this information! No wonder effective searches take knowhow. searching tips. search engines rely on computer programs called spiders or robots to crawl the Web and log the words on each page. But remember: it's estimated that there are between 200 and 800 million documents online . To find out about more about search engines. While humans organize and catalog subject directories.
Neither will it return pages with the word FCC and the word wireless. and communication all appear somewhere on the page. (FCC or wireless or communication) When OR is used.g. Thus. OR expands your search results. Surround OR statements with parentheses for best results.The search engine will not return pages with just the word FCC. and all keywords. Use OR when you have common synonyms for a keyword. To narrow results as much as possible. the following search statement locates information on purchasing a used car: (car or automobile or vehicle) and (buy or purchase) and used Practice OR & AND BOOLEAN AND NOT AND NOT tells the search engine to retrieve web pages containing one keyword but not the other. combine OR statements with AND statements. AND helps to narrow your search results as it limits results to pages where all the keywords appear. The need for AND NOT often becomes apparent after you perform an initial search. Practice AND NOT . Practice AND BOOLEAN OR Linking search terms with OR tells the search engine to retrieve web pages containing ANY and ALL keywords. wireless. consider using AND NOT to filter out the undesired websites. Saturn the car rather than Saturn the planet). dolphins and not Miami The above example instructs the search engine to return web pages about dolphins but not web pages about the "Miami Dolphins" football team. Thus. If your search results contain irrelevant results (e. several keywords. The search engine will only return pages where the words FCC. the search engine returns pages with a single keyword.. Use AND NOT when you have a keyword that has multiple meanings. For example.
There is no space between the plus or minus sign and the keyword.IMPLIED BOOLEAN: PLUS & MINUS In many search engines. Kennedy" "Walt Disney World" "global warming" For best results. and it should be used as often as possible. +welding +process +Saturn -car couch sofa IMPORTANT: Use AltaVista's Simple Search for implied Boolean (+/-) searches. and AND NOT) logic. Phrase searching is a powerful search technique for significantly narrowing your search results. AND NOT) searches. and theminus sign (-) is the equivalent of AND NOT. and use AltaVista's Advanced Search for full Boolean (AND. OR. "John F. +"heart disease" +cause "heart disease" and cause . OR. combine phrase searching with implied Boolean (+/-) or full Boolean (AND. and AND NOT. The plus sign (+) is the equivalent of AND. the plus and minus symbols can be used as alternatives to full Boolean AND and AND NOT. OR. Practice Implied Boolean (+/-) PHRASE SEARCHING Surrounding a group of words with double quotes tells the search engine to only retrieve documents in which those words appear side-by-side. NOTE: AltaVista's Simple Search requires the use of plus and minus rather than AND.
host. if you want both upper and lower case occurrences returned. Searching effectiveness increases as you combine field searches with phrase searches and Boolean logic. such as title. capitals. A web page is composed of a number of fields. However. type your keywords that way. the plus sign before the quotes is optional. you must put a plus or minus sign before the phrase as well as the other keywords. and capitalization. A few search engines support truncation or wildcard features that allow variations in spelling or word forms. "Walt Disney World"). if you wanted to find information about George Washington and his wife Martha. make your keywords plural. capital* returns web pages with capital. and link. For example.The above example tells the search engine to retrieve pages where the words heart disease appear side-by-side and the word cause appears somewhere else on the page.g. Practice Phrase Searching (Implied) Practice Phrase Searching (Full Boolean) PLURAL FORMS. The asterisk (*) symbol tells the search engine to return alternate spellings for a word at the point that the asterisk appears. NOTE ON IMPLIED BOOLEAN LOGIC (+/-): When a phrase search is combined with additional keywords using implied Boolean logic (+/-). CAPITAL LETTERS.. For example. AND ALTERNATE SPELLINGS Most search engines interpret lower case letters as either upper or lower case. Practice Truncation (Implied) Practice Truncation (Full Boolean) TITLE SEARCH Field searching is one of the most effective techniques for narrowing results and getting the most relevant websites listed at the top of the results page. If the search involves a phrase with no additional keywords (e. Thus. "George Washington") or all upper case letters. capitalize. If you want plural forms only.g. you could try the following search: +title:"George Washington" +President +Martha . most search engines interpret singular keywords as singular or plural. if you want to limit your results to initial capital letters (e. type your keywords in all lower case letters. Like capitalization. domain.. URL.
the link search. educational institutions (.edu . other helpful field searching strategies include the domain search.org .gov).S.S. visit this site.mil .title:"George Washington" and President and Martha The above TITLE SEARCH example instructs the search engine to return web pages where the phrase George Washington appears in the title and the words President and Martha appear somewhere on the page. domains are the following: .edu). there is no space between the colon (:) and the keyword. For a list of all country domains. The DOMAIN SEARCH allows you to limit results to certain domains such as websites from the United Kingdom (. +domain:uk +title:"Queen Elizabeth" domain:uk and title:"Queen Elizabeth" +domain:edu +"lung cancer" +smok* domain:edu and "lung cancer" and smok* The current U. or government sites (.gov . .uk). Like plus and minus. the host search.net = = = = = = a commercial business an educational institution a governmental institution a non-profit organization a military site a network site Most websites originating outside the U. Practice Title Searching (Implied) Practice Title Searching (Full Bool DOMAIN SEARCH In addition to the title search.com . have a country domain indicating the country of origin. and the URL search.
Practice Domain Searching (Implied) Practice Domain Searching (Full Boolean) HOST SEARCH The HOST SEARCH comes in handy when you need to find something located at a large site that does not have an internal search engine. A URL search can narrow very broad results to web pages devoted to the keyword topic.disney. +host:www. use an internal search engine.com and "special offer" Practice Host Searching (Implied) Practice Host Searching (Full Boolean) URL SEARCH The URL SEARCH limits search results to web pages where the keyword appears in the URL or website address. For example. With this search technique. NOTE: Because the major search engines do not always log an entire website. you can search all the pages at a website (contained in the engine's database) for keywords or phrases of interest. if you have a home page and you are . +url:halloween +title:stories url:halloween and title:stories Practice URL Searching (Implied) Practice URL Searching (Full Boolean) LINK SEARCH Use the LINK SEARCH when you want to know what websites are linked to a particular site of interest.disney.com +"special offer" host:www. if the website has one. for best results.
written and maintained by The WebTools Company. . which was researched.pepsi.com link:www. of VisualMetrics Corporation. FL. Researchers use link searches for conducting backward citations. link:www. Fort Lauderdale. use the Link search.org/ref/ Practice Link Searching (Implied) Practice Link Searching (Full Boolean) Next Topic Copyright © 1999 .wondering if anyone has put a link to your page on their website.ipl. The information in this document has been extracted from the complete version of Search Tutorial: Guide to Effective Searching of the Internet.2004 by Debbie Flanagan. All rights reserved. Source: Search Tutorial: Guide to Effective Searching of the Internet by the WebTools Company. Republished with permission.
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