Search Strategies


Search tools can help you uncover those bits of information treasure which will fill
your need. Using appropriate strategies will greatly improve your results.

 Most Search tools have a similar structure. All will include in some form:

  • form for you to enter your keywords
  • a button which will begin your search
  • links to help pages and advanced search tools, normally located near the search form
  • special features and options
  • subject categories (most)

In order to be an effective searcher, you must determine the key words related to your topic. It is a good idea to brainstorm a list pf words before you attempt to search. Each search tool is different and a keyword that works on one may return no results in another.

Simple Searching

The easiest method of using a search tool is simply to type one or more key words in the search box and click on the search button. The search tool will return a list of hits relating to the keywords you entered. As you scroll through the list you will notice that some appear better than others.


 Some points to keep in mind while searching:

  •  spelling counts!!
  • use lower case letters since the engine will look for both upper and lower case.
  • look at your results page to see if you can modify the manner in which results are displayed.

Results from this method are often mixed and you may have to wade through many results to find the site most useful to you.

Complex Searching

To improve your searching efficiency, you should use Boolean Logic. Using the owrds and, or, and not will help refine your search.



Connecting your keywords with AND tells the search tool that all the words must be present.


Connecting your keywords with OR tells the search tool that any of the words can be present.


Using NOT in front of a key word tells the search tool to exclude any page containg that word. Some engines require you to use AND NOT


garden AND vegetables
requires that any hit returned would include BOTH woords.

terriers OR poodles
will return pages which have EITHER of the words.

 cats NOT dogs
will return any pages that have cats in the text, but will exclude any mention both cats and dogs.

Alternative Methods to Use Boolean Logic

+ may be substituted for AND.
- may be substituted for NOT.
It is a good idea to put + (plus sign) in front of any word you want to require and a - (minus sign) in front of any word you want to



+garden +vegetable
requires BOTH words to be present.

+cats -dogs
will return pages that have cats, but will exclude any that have the word dogs.

Phrase Searching

When you are searching for a phrase, you should enclose it in quotation marks. The quotation marks tell the search tool that the words enclosed in quotes must be exactly as they were typed, and in the same order. Most search engines recognize this protocol.



"indoor soccer"
tells the search tool to look for the words as a phrase. Both words must be present and appear next to each other in the same order.

 Natural Language Searching

More and more search tools are allowing a form of searching called natural language. This means that you can type a sentence or question exactly as you would ask it. The search tool will try to determine key words from your sentence or question and locate pages based on these words. Many that allow natural language require you to specify that you want to use natural language searching. Look carefully at the search form to see if you must choose natural language



What are the battlefields of the Civil War?
The search tool will determine the key words "battlefields" and "Civil War" and do a search using those words.

Default Boolean Logic

If you merely type key words into a search form as in a simple search, you must understand which of the Boolean operators is used as the default. Many search tools use OR as the default. If you type in two or more words, the tool assumes you mean OR. Only a few tools use AND as the default. This could radically affect your search!!