In a world where almost any question can be answered by typing in a few words, it is important that we know how to navigate the internet as efficiently as possible. The ability to search for and come up with reliable information is important in a democracy so that people are willing and able to dispute each other with equal access to information. Public search domains such as Google and Yahoo provide the internet with almost limitless access to the web just by inputting a few keywords. With such a large amount of information available at your fingertips, it is important that you understand how to find just what you’re looking for without too many failed attempts.
In order to do that, a few useful search techniques will be detailed. While you may think that all search engines are different, they actually happen to work in a very similar way. At the forefront of any search engine is the search itself, which can be improved by taking note of a few key modifiers. Most search queries use Boolean operators such as “and”, “or”, or “not”(BooleanBlackBelt). These modifiers, along with some other tricks, can help you get the exact results you’re looking for.
This explanation of Boolean modifiers will start off with “and”. If you’re searching for more than one keyword but would like your results to include both of them instead of just one,you would use “and” in the middle to ensure that your results include both keywords, whether or not they’re next to each other in the text. Almost every search engine interprets the space between keywords as an “and”, but that does not mean this search modifier is obsolete. It can be used in conjunction with other operators to achieve a desired result.
Next, we’ll explore the importance of the operator “or”. Contrary to “and”, the use of“or” will broaden your search, rather than narrow it. If your search query was “chickens or dogs”, your search will return results including chickens, dogs, or both. When doing this, the top results are often results that include both, but the total number of results would be the sum of the number of results for chickens, and the number of results for dogs. This is more useful when search a very specific field of information and you need to increase the amount of results you have to sort through.
If you are having trouble searching for something obscure that is constantly tied to some other keyword, you can eliminate results including a certain word by using the “not” operator.However, the word “not” itself is not commonly used anymore and is achieved in most search engines by putting a minus before keywords you wish to exclude (Google). To search for some of Matt Groening’s work other than The Simpsons, your search query would be “matt groening –simpsons”. This will search for Matt Groening, but will leave out any results that include the word “simpsons”. Similar to the “and” operator, this one will narrow your results rather than broadening them.
The last Boolean operator you deserve to know about isn’t even a word, it’s simplyputting quotation marks around your keywords. A string of keywords inside of quotation markswill return results that include verbatim what is inside the quotation marks. If searching for songlyrics or any specific quote you know of, placing them inside of quotation marks will returnexactly what you search. As mentioned, spaces between words act as an “and” operator, and willsearch for pages that include any of those words. When placed inside of quotation marks, thespaces no longer act that way and the whole string of words is treated as one big key-phrase.
A search is a good search if the results you get are of interest and help you figure outwhat you wanted to know. However, it is important to note that your results are only as credibleas the sources you pick from them. Just because your search query is more scholarly does notmean that your results will be too. If you would like to limit your search to a certain website ortype of domain, end your query with “site:microsoft.com” or “site:.gov”, respectively. If you arelooking primarily for scholarly sources, “site:.edu” would be a good modifier to add to the end ofyour search. Just because a source was the first link your search results provided does not mean itis the best or most credible source. Treat each source differently and put in the effort to scrollthrough a few pages of results before deeming your search worthless.