St. Louis Community College
Text Only Skip to content
Skip header navigation.
Skip sub-section linksSTLCC Home » Libraries » Research Help » Expert Web Searching

Expert Web Searching

These tips and methods will work for most of the major search engines.

Tip 1: Be specific. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to find what you're looking for.

Tip 2: Do NOT use a single word in a search engine unless it is a very unusual word.
For example: Synchronia (a St. Louis New Music group)

Search Engine Math

For more information on the following search method, see Search Engine Watch

Quotation marks
If you're looking for an exact name, or title, or phrase, the most efficient search method is to put the phrase in quotation marks (" ") as in the examples below:

  1. "no child left behind" (usually capitalization & punctuation are not necessary)
  2. "yellowstone camping reservations"

The quotation marks tell the computer that the words should be next to each other in a specific order. If you type income tax with no quotation marks, you will get web pages where both words are mentioned somewhere on the page, but not necessarily together or in the same order.

+ / -
Most Search Engines (but NOT directories) also allow you to use the + and - symbols to indicate whether a word must appear or should not appear on a website.

  1. Example: births +premature will find websites about premature births (as opposed to all births). births -defects will find sites on all kinds of births except birth defects.

Some search tools allow you to use OR to broaden a search. Most allow you to use AND to narrow a search.

  1. Example: teenager or adolescent
  2. Example: marriage and divorce

Images and Sounds

You can search specifically for images or sounds on the web. Many search engines have image and sound options built in. Try Google, Ask, Yahoo, MSN, etc.

More Tips

Also check out a similar method and good online tutorial at Bare Bones 101.

For more tips on using your favorite search tool, check out the Search Tools Chart available at Infopeople.