Best Bet Search Tips
Here is a quick summary of best bet tips for putting together a search on a Web search engine.
~ Most search engines default to Boolean AND logic. To create a search that will retrieve Web pages containing all of your search terms, simply type the words with a space in between them. Example: bears hibernation
~ Sometimes you need to search for multiple words to represent a particular concept. To do this, include synonyms or alternate spellings in your search statement and connect these words with Boolean OR logic. OR logic will retrieve Web pages containing one or more of your search terms. Search engines are not consistent in the way they want you to type an OR search. For example, Google requires that OR be capitalized. So, it's usually best to fill out the form on the advanced search page and let the search engine do the rest. Example: college OR university
~ For a Boolean NOT search, place a minus sign (-) in front of the word you want to exclude from your search results. Example: apple -computer
|These search statements||Will retrieve...|
|World War I AND
World War II
|pages containing both these phrases|
|World War I OR
World War II
|pages containing at least one of these phrases|
|World War I NOT
World War II
|pages containing the phrase World War I but not the phrase World War II|
~ Surround a phrase with quotation marks. Example: "freedom of the press" Quotation marks are also helpful when you want the search engine to retrieve pages containing your word exactly as you have typed it.
~ Use the advanced search page when you want to do a focused or more complicated search. It helps you to limit your results in various ways, including words in the title, date, language, file type, site, etc. You can also use an advanced search page to combine different types of Boolean logic in a single search. The advanced search page is great to try out because it shows you the types of searches the search engine can do for you.
~ If your search results look too general for what you want, try these techniques:
- Add another concept with AND logic
- Use vocabulary that is specific to your topic, e.g., "Subaru" rather than "cars"
- Narrow your search to various fields, for example, words in the title, date, site, etc., easy to do on an advanced search page
- Use the Boolean NOT to keep out pages containing words you don't want
~ If your search results look too narrow or limited for what you want, try these techniques:
- Drop the least important concept(s) to broaden your subject
- Use more general vocabulary
- Add alternate words or spellings for individual concepts and connect with the Boolean OR
- Don't use field searching
~ Finally, keep this general search advice in mind:
- If you're not sure how to use a particular search engine, read the Help pages. With just a few minutes of effort, you can be on your way to conducting an effective search.
- Check your spelling.
- Take advantage of capitalization if the search engine is case sensitive. Hint: Google is not case sensitive.
- If your results are not satisfactory, repeat the search using alternative words.
- Experiment with different search engines. No two search engines retrieve identical results. Also, consider trying search engines that search multiple engines simultaneously. Check out The World of Search Engines for more information.
- Try different sources to diversify your results. Sources can include topical directories created by professionals, research sites such as Google Scholar or Google Books, etc. See the tutorials The World of Subject Directories and Finding Scholarly Content.