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Searching Hints

The World Wide Web is not well defined nor organized and a single search engine does little more than touch the surface. Luck, patience and good techniques pay off.

The internet is a supplement not a replacement for research. Classes, libraries, scholarly research are all orderly means of learning; the web can supplement them in various ways but not replace them.

Using Search Engines

  • Read the help information for each search engine you use. This tells you how best to use that tool. Repeat this each search session.

  • Repeat your search in multiple search engines because the coverage of each differs.

  • Prefer to start with a few broad searches before beginning specific searches. The more general search will enable you to better focus the specific searches.

  • Become familiar with the 'advanced' searching features of at least 4 or 5 good search engines and use them as your starting point. Use the special features, such as Boolean searching, to reduce a large number of responses to a more manageable size and, thereby, improve your results. (Make a 3x5 card summarizing their special features for quick reference.)

  • Use specialized search tools when they are available. Bookmark those in your areas of interest for future use.

  • The more you search and the better you understand the search engines and their databases the better your results will be.


    When you get NO results:

  • Check your spelling.
  • Review the structure of your search statement especially if using Boolean terms.
  • Reread the Help instructions for the search engine.
  • Use more general terms or use synonyms for the terms which produced no results.
  • Use a different search engine if these fail.
  • It's possible there is little or no information available on the internet for your topic.

    When you get TOO MANY results:

  • Restate your search; use Boolean terms if available to restrict the results.
  • Use more specific terminology to focus the search.
  • Look at the results and see what is common to the best hits; restructure your search to emphasize these elements.
  • Reread the search engine Help instructions for ways to limit searches, such at field searches or date restricted searches.

    Bookmark useful sites immediately. Trying to find the site again later can be very frustrating.