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Smarter tips for searching the internet

Know the various search engines

This is vital as you're not limited to using the common ones like Google. Consider using Bing, DuckDuckGo, Quora, Dogpile, WolframAlpha, among others for unlimited sources of research and relevant data and information.

Use specific and Unique terms

To reduce the number of pages returned, use unique terms that are specific to the subject you are researching. This saves you from the trouble of getting lots of irrelevant information that may not be of use to your search.

Use quotation marks for exact phrases

Using quotation marks around a phrase will return only results with those exact words and in that  order. It's one of the best ways to limit the pages returned. For examples "best dressed princesses in Europe".

Refrain from using common words and punctuations

Ignore common terms like “a” and “the” which are stop words. However, there are cases when common words like “the” are significant. For example “bird” and “the bird” will return entirely different results.

Refrain from entering a search with + and -, Boolean “AND”, “OR”, and “NOT”, parenthetical expressions and other advanced features before you have simply entered the search term or terms. If you are searching a phrase, however, the " " around the search will generally lead to better results.

Use Both the Advanced and the Simple Modes of Search Tools

Learning to work with the Advanced Search modes does not take much more time or energy to learn to use. This also allows you to work with more search options and retrieve sites that are more relevant.

Use the Directories in Search Tools or Subject Directories

Directories, such as what is used by Yahoo, are available on most search tools and help organize sites into categories. Use these categories to focus your search.

Use Capitalization When Appropriate or to Refine a Search

You will not be penalized by using capitalization for a search such as "Harry Potter" or "International Health Sciences University." Capitalization will often retrieve sites that have the search term in the title. This tactic is especially useful when searching for terms that are not capitalized unless they are in a title.

Use Find or Ctrl-F to Help Navigate Search Results

Often it is difficult to understand why a site is retrieved in a search. The “Find” or “Ctrl-F” feature will quickly allow you to search the text of a site and locate specific keywords.

Use browser history

It is quite easy to go back to a once browsed web site. You can easily try to remember the exact words used for the search and then scan the results for the right site. It is even better if you can remember the general date and time you browsed through the given web site. 

Customize your searches

There are many ways to limit the number of results returned and reduce your search time. This can be done through the use of;

The plus operator (+) which tells the search engine to include those words in a result set for example, black + white will return results that have the word and.

The tilde operator (~) which is put in front of a word to return results that include synonyms. It however does not work well for all terms and sometimes not at all for example ~CSS includes the synonym style and returns fashion related style pages.

The wildcard operator (*) which fills in the blank operator. For example happy* will return pages with happy and any other term(s) the Google search engine deems relevant.

Related sites will return sites similar to the searched site for example can be used to find sites similar to Youtube.

Advanced searches: Once you click the Advanced Search button by the search box on the Google start or results page to refine your search by date, country, amount, language, or other criteria.

Boolean Basics

The three most commonly used Boolean commands (or “operators”) are “AND”, “OR” and “AND NOT”.

AND means “I want only documents that contain both/all words.” For example “students” AND “university” AND “undergraduate” will return only documents that contain all three keywords or phrases. AND is the most frequently used Boolean command.

OR means “I want documents that contain either word; I don’t care which.” For example “students” OR “university” OR “undergraduate” will return documents that contain even one of the three keywords or phrases. Use OR to string together synonyms; be careful about mixing it with AND

AND NOT means “I want documents that contain this word, but not if the document also contains another word.” For example “students” AND “university” AND NOT “undergraduate” will return only documents that contain students and university but not undergraduate. Remember that AND NOT only applies to the word or phrase that immediately follows it.

Most search engines support the AND NOT command. It is sometimes called BUT NOT or NOT, and is sometimes indicated by placing a minus sign (-) before the term or phrase to be removed. (Check the search tips of the engine you’re using to see which form of AND NOT it accepts). Before you apply AND NOT, see what results you get from a simpler search.

Other Quick Tips

  • Use 6 to 8 keywords per query.
  • Where possible, combine keywords into phrases by using quotation marks, as in “solar system”.
  • Spell carefully, and consider alternate spellings.
  • Avoid redundant terms.
  • Check the “Help” function of the particular search engine you’re using, since they all have their own preferences.
  • Use nouns as query keywords. Never use articles (“a,” “the”), pronouns (“he,” “it”), conjunctions (“and,” “or”) or prepositions (“to,” “from”) in your queries.