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Searching The Internet

A brief introduction on how to search the Internet - includes an Internet Scavenger Hunt



When you "Search the Internet" you are actually searching a huge database compiled by whichever search engine you happen to be using.


You are not searching the "Internet." The search engine has already done that and has used its specific criteria to decide which of the pages and sites it finds should be included in its database.


Each independent search engine company maintains its own huge database and organizes its data in its own way. For this reason, although you will get a great deal of duplication when you search for a particular thing on several search engines, there will be differences both in presentation and in what results are delivered to you.


The Internet is a 'free speech' world in which there are no monitors and no censors.


When you look at the results of a search it is important that you consider carefully the quality of the individual results to judge their reliability.


You need to decide which of the following are important to you:

  1. Is the information current enough for your purposes?
  2. Have you heard of the entity that is sponsoring or publishing the site?
  3. Is the site commercial, institutional, personal, etc.
  4. Is any bias explicit or hidden?
  5. Who are the authors? What are their credentials?
  6. What does the URL tell you about the producer of the web site?

    The .xxx three letters at the end of the URL indicate the type of

    domain. A few examples:

    .gov = government

    .org = organization

    .com = commercial

    .edu = education

    .mil = military.


How to Search

All most people need to know is a little basic "search engine knowhow" in order to improve their results. The information below works for nearly all of the major search engines.


1. Be Specific

It's helpful to remember that the more specific your search is, the more likely you will find what you want. 


Don't be afraid to tell a search engine exactly what you are looking for. For example, if you want information about Windows 98 bugs, search for "Windows 98 bugs," not "Windows." Or even better, search for exactly what the problem is: "I can't install a USB device in Windows 98," for example. You'll be surprised at how often this works.


2. Using The + (Plus) Symbol

Sometimes, you want to make sure that a search engine finds pages that have all the words you enter, not just some of them. The + symbol lets you do this.


For example, imagine you want to find pages that have references to both President Clinton and Kenneth Starr on the same page. You could search this way and only pages that contain both words would appear in your results:

+clinton +starr

Notice that there is no space between the + symbol and the word it affects.


3. Using The – (Minus) Symbol

Sometimes, you want a search engine to find pages that have one word on them but not another word. 


The - symbol lets you do this.


Perhaps you are looking for information specifically about Windows 95 but keep getting pages about Windows 98 or Windows 3.1. You could eliminate them with a search like this:

windows +95 -98 -3.1


4. Using Quotation Marks

This is where you tell a search engine to give you pages where the terms appear in exactly the order you specify. 


You do this by putting quotation marks around the phrase, like this and only pages that have all the words and in the exact order will be listed: "yosemite camping reservations" or "windows 98 bugs" etc.


5. Combining Symbols

You can combine symbols to easily create targeted searches. This might work:

star trek -voyager -deep -space -nine -next -generation

But a better search might be:


"star trek" -voyager -"deep space nine" -"next generation"






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