Guide to Effective Searching

Word Choice

Word choice can be very importance for returning relevant results. Before conducting a search try to think of as many similar or synonymous terms as possible for the word you want to search. Try using the words you think are in the most common usage. If you are doing research in a particular field try to think of the relevant terms that are most likely to be used by efforts. For example you may choose to do a search of the term cat and then do a second search using the word feline.

Entering Words

Your chances of retrieving relevant results are also greatly increased if you use correct spelling. Use only the words of core importance to your concept, also known as keywords. Leave out words that are likely to be so commonly used as to be useless, such as “a” “an” and “the”. When entering words, do not worry about capitalization unless you are using a well known proper noun or a term where the capitalized and lowercase versions have different meanings. Many search engines do not recognize capital letters and therefore except when absolutely necessary to convey meaning is unnecessary.

Combining Words

For most research you may want to find resources on complex topics. This requires understanding how to combine words so that search engines understand what you want. The following list explains how search engines interpret your input.

You may search two or more separate terms together using the word or between each word.

EX: dog OR cat OR bird

This tells the search engine you want to find materials that contain one of these terms or both of these terms.

EX: dog OR cat

This example would retrieve some items that are only about dogs, some items that are only about cats, and some items that mention both cats and dogs.

NOTE: In many search engines, if you type in a series of words without any connecting terms or quotations such as dog cat bird the search engine will assume the OR operator and will retrieve resources following the same rules as if you had typed or between each rule

You can also search two or more separate terms together using the word and between each word.

EX: dog AND cat AND bird

Using and tells the search engine you want to find materials that contain both of these words. This example would retrieve only the resources that contain all three terms, dog, cat, and bird.

Use NOT between words to retrieve resources which contain one word but not the other.

EX: dog NOT cat

This search retrieves all items which contain the word dog, except those that contain the word cat as well.