Search engines can be a powerful tool for finding the information you need on the Internet. The following tips will help speed your search.

Know your search engine
Most search sites, whether search engine, metasearch engine or web directory, will include instructions on how to achieve the best results. This information is usually posted in the “About Us”, “Search Tips” or “Advanced Search” sections of the web site. Not all search engines support all of the search methods described below. If you are unsure if a site will accept a specific search term entry, it is best to consult the instruction page before beginning your search.

Choose your words with care
Search engines and web directories work by matching the terms you enter to the indexed listings in their databases. Be as specific as possible when entering your search terms. For example, if you are looking for information on Flipper, the dolphin star of the classic TV show Flipper, then you should enter something specific like “Flipper TV show” instead of something general like “dolphins”.

Use search categories to narrow your search
When searching on a web directory, use the advanced search tools provided on the site to direct your search toward one or several relevant subject categories. This helps to ensure more relevant results and will return results more quickly because the entire database does not have to be searched.

Use Boolean terms
The term “Boolean” refers to a set of commands that allow you to include or exclude certain pages from your search results, based on the content of each page. Some common Boolean operators search engines recognize are AND, OR and NOT. You can use these terms, in combination with your search terms, to return more relevant results. For example, if you are looking for the children’s cartoon series that feature the characters Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo, then you would enter “Scooby Doo AND Scrappy Doo”. Searching just by the name of the show “Scooby Doo” might also yield information on both characters, but the results for “Scooby Doo AND Scrappy Doo” would exclude all those web sites that mention Scooby Doo but do not mention Scrappy Doo.

Use quotation marks
When conducting a search for a person, or if you are using several terms that should be considered together, try putting quotation marks around the terms. Quotation marks communicate to the search engine that multiple words should be treated as a single term. For example, if you are looking for information on our first president, George Washington, you would want to search for “George Washington” using the quotation mark so that the search engine knows to only display results where the two names, “George” and “Washington” appear together.

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