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Effective Internet Search: Search Help

Search Tips

by Judith Gill

The search tips below are compiled from various sources throughout our book. There's lots more where they came from. We hope you find them useful!

Effective Internet Search Tips

Search Tips


First use very specific search terms (at least three words or phrases), then more general ones, if necessary, e.g., synonyms and word variations (wildcards and so on). The idea is to generalize in steps, each time producing more findings than the time before. "Canadian military women in WWII" produces no results. Generalize to "Canadian women in WWII".
Try using quotes around search terms or phrases. Miss America Contest” — rather than Miss America Contest
Minimize the number of search terms used; particularly avoid small or unimportant words where possible. DVD player ratings” — rather than “Ratings of DVD players”
Place a plus sign (+) in front of search terms to give them more importance. +menopause
Use the word stub and/or singular as opposed to plural words work — rather than works or working
Check your spelling. Use labour instead of labor if your want to find websites outside the U.S.
Use a wildcard to substitute for one or more characters when searching for text; e.g., an asterisk (*).

Place wildcards at the start, middle or end of words, which allows simultaneously searching for several words with the same root or stem.

play* finds any word starting with the four letters "play" and with any kind of ending — playback, playboy, playbook, playdough, etc.

smok* returns documents containing words such as smoke, smokers, smoking, smokes, smoked, smoking, etc.

For lists of resources, enter “directory of” in front of your search term. directory of nutrition resources
For deep web searches, add the word “databases” after your search term. genealogy databases or chemical databases
To find a definition, enter “What is …?” What is OFDM?” or “What is Canada’s Food Guide?
Use slang or discipline-specific terms geared to narrow down your search. If searching specifically for TCP remote_port field, use that exact phrase rather than TCP client port field.
Use plural words to find shopping sites. motorcycles

Effective Internet Search: E-Searching Made Easy!    © Baylin Systems, Inc., 2006