Searching the Web: Strategies
Developing Your Topic
- Begin by stating your topic completely.
What are the effects of television violence on children?
- Pick-out the two or three essential concepts of your topic.
television violence, children
- Identify synonyms, related terms, and possible variant spellings for each concept. Note that the identification of related terms will involve important decisions concerning the scope of your research.
television- media, tv violence- aggression, guns children- teens, youth, adolescents
- Try typing in different combinations of terms.
In searching the web, it is best to keep searches simple. Related terms are better searched separately rather than as part of some "mega search statement." Be sure to keep track of the terms/combinations you have tried. In search engines, you do not have to insert "AND" between terms. To ensure that terms are searched as a phrase, place them in quotes: "television violence."
Additional Search Tips
- Be as specific as possible with your search terms; Pull out the KEY CONCEPTS.
- Consider using a different search engine. They really are different (see Analyzing Features, below).
- Take the time to read the Help screens and inspect the Advanced Search section of the search engine you choose.
- Place quotes ("") around searchable phrases. "animal rights"
- Place a plus (+) sign in front of key terms. +"animal rights" +testing
- Place a minus (-) sign in front of terms you do not want returned. +"animal rights" +testing -vivisection
- Limit your search to a specific domain:
- .edu - educational website
- .gov - official government website
- .org - organization's website
- .com - commercial website
- .mil - official military website
Example: +"animal rights" +testing +domain:.org
- Add the terms research or bibliography to your search to help limit to scholarly sources. "animal rights" testing research
- CRITICALLY evaluate the websites you find.
- Print out the websites you plan to use in your research.
Analyzing Features of Search Engines
Remember, search engines and directories can differ in the size of their databases, how the databases are compiled (humans or computer search programs), the use of Boolean operators, the ranking and display of results, and ability to limit by field, language or domain.
Take the time to read the Help screens, Advanced Search, and Search Tips sections of the search engines and directories you choose.
- Webpages with Detailed Comparisons of Search Engines
- Webpages with Detailed Comparisons of Subject Directories
- Search Engine Showdown Comparing Internet Subject Directories
- Detailed Features Table: from UC-Berkeley Tutorial