A Guide To More Effective Searching
What is a Search Engine?

Search Engines make the job of finding the web page you want easier. You type in keywords or topic that you are interested in and the search engine returns a list of sites it has identified as relevant to your query, placing the most relevant first. Relevance is determined by a number of factors, the most significant being how many times your keywords appear on the page.

Search engines include SearchUK, altavista and hotbot.


What is a Directory service?

A directory service put web pages into categories and sub-categories according to their content. If you only have a rough idea of what you are looking for a directory may be better than a search engine.

Directory services include yahoo and excite.


How do I improve my search?
  • Try more than one search engine/directory: Remember that each one will have a slightly different list of web pages. For example: if you are looking for a UK specific site try SearchUK but if you have no luck there try one of the older, larger search engines such as altavista as well.

  • Use Unique keywords: Try and be precise as possible, it can help to think a bit laterally. For example if you are looking for times of flights try "Belfast airport".

  • Use capital letters where you would normally (in place names etc.) as this narrows the search down a bit. Or if you are in doubt use small letters. When you use small letters the search engine will look for both capital letters AND small letters.

  • Use search parameters:
    • AND (or +): This will return pages that contain ALL of your keywords, e.g. flying and gliding
    • OR: This will return pages that contain either of your keywords e.g. flying or gliding
    • NOT (or -): This will return pages that DO NOT contain a keyword e.g. flying not gliding

      NB: flying gliding is NOT the same as flying and gliding. The first will do both an and search as well as an or search.

  • Use quotation marks to group words together into a phrase. Otherwise the search engine will look for each individual word. For example "circus equipment manufactures" may be better than just circus and equipment.

  • Don't worry if your search returns a huge number of pages. The most relevant will be listed first and you can further narrow your search by adding keywords and using the search parameters.

  • Use the advice and tutorial information that is provided on the search engine to find out about some of the more advanced options or options that are specific to that search engine/directory.


What is a natural language search?

Some search engines such as SearchUK allow you to type in a search query in English (AskJeeves is a search engine specifically designed for this). For example instead of typing
Russian +music +composers
you can type
Where can I find information about composers of Russian music?

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