If you are tired of getting results that don’t fit what you are looking for, or if you just want to speed up your searches, you may be interested in some of the search engine techniques that can make your searches much more efficient and powerful. These include using boolean operators and search field expansions.
Most search engines use a combination of human and computer input to produce a list of search results. Crawler-based engines (such as Google) have software agents called crawlers that visit Web sites and then “read” the information on the site, read its meta tags, follow links from the site to other pages, then perform a similar indexing operation on those pages. This information is then added to a central database that can be accessed by users searching for relevant information.
Many smaller, specialty search engines focus on a particular kind of information, such as music files, news items or library catalog records. These can be particularly useful if you are looking for specific content, but they can also skew your results in ways that you don’t expect.
The larger search engines allow you to refine your search by using different search fields and by adding different search terms. Some search engines also offer a variety of specialized tools such as dictionaries, pronunciations and calculators.
Searching a wide range of information sources is the most efficient way to find what you are looking for. However, the sheer number of available information on the Internet can be daunting and may skew your results. This is why it’s important to learn basic search engine techniques.
General search engine principles are similar for any kind of search, but there are some specific tips that you should keep in mind when searching databases and subject catalogs. For example, search engine technology is increasingly designed to discourage the overuse of keywords, a practice known as “keyword stuffing.”
Another tip is to always search in quotation marks around a phrase or series of words that you are searching for. This will ensure that your search engine only returns documents that contain those exact words in that precise order. You can also use parentheses to clarify your search when using boolean operators such as AND, OR and NOT.
Finally, use a wildcard character such as an asterisk, question mark or number or pound sign in your search term to increase the flexibility of your results. This allows you to search for variations of a word or for words that are synonymous with each other. For example, if you are looking for women painters and men painters, the search engine will return all the results that mention either of those words. However, if you use the search string painters AND artists, the engine will only find the results that mention both words. This is called truncating.