Searching Tips

Since the Web is so vast and unruly (and search servicesare still so new at cataloging this chaos) you need to takecontrol of your own searches. Here are some tips tohelp you find what you're looking for:

pick your search tool

If you're looking for a general topic, try a directory like Yahoo.Chances are you'll come across the most comprehensive andrelevant sites. But if you're trying to find information aboutsomeone or something specific or obscure, like Benjamin Franklin,you're better off using a full-text search engine like Infoseek orAltaVista.

Use at least two or three search terms

By using more keywords to narrow your search, you canlocate documents that fit your information needs more precisely.

Search terms# of matches
Jobs consulting51,452
Jobs consulting engineering21,770
Jobs consulting engineering civil6,568

stay away from common words

If you use a word that is very common, such as shopping,chances are you'll get an overwhelmingly long list of results. Try topick less common words or use synonyms to narrow your search.

exclude words you don't want

You can also use the NOT command (or the minus symbol) toexclude words from a search query. Searching for "racing ANDbike NOT car," is more likely to eliminate pages about car racing.

use quotes for phrases or proper names

If you're searching for a name or a phrase, like BenjaminFranklin, enclose it in quotation marks. That way, most searchengines will find only pages where the words appear next to eachother in the text--you won't be presented with pages that mentionBenjamin Spock and Aretha Franklin.

to cap or not to cap?

If you enter a keyword in lowercase, most search engines will findboth upper- and lowercase matches. Use capital letters if youwant an exact case match.

Avoid using plural words

The results for singular word searches will normally include the pluralform of the word. This may not be important all of the time, but itis a good habit to use in all of your searches.

search for variations

Some search engines support the asterisk (*) symbol (known asthe wildcard) to find variations on a word. For example, if youenter cook*, you'll find pages about cooking, cooks, cookbooks,and so on--and probably cookies, too.

read the help section

Most sites provide tips on using their particular service--althoughalmost all of these primers could use a good editor and moredetails. Still, it's worth reading these sections for sites you useoften.

Use the other advanced options

For example at Altavista you can find pages that contain the specified word or phrase in the page title or find words that are near each other.

Use different search tools

If you are not getting the results from the search tool you are using try switching to a different search tool.

Try to work around Error 404

Documents move around a lot on the Internet. If you follow a linkfrom a search engine and it reports Error 404 Page/FIle not foundtry removing the the last level from the URL. Repeat until you reach the root level.