Michael L. Kent, Ph.D., University New South Wales | Home

How to Search the Web More Effectively

Web Search Suggestions Principles of Web Searching
  1. The more key words used the better—sometimes a dozen or more.
  2. Search for phrases ("words in quotes"—especially names) when possible.
  3. If you do not have an exact term/phrase to search for, use many key words.
  4. Rare or unusual words like "defenestrate" are easier to find than common ones.
  5. Very common words, such as "computer," are hard to narrow down.
  6. Order your search terms with the most important terms first.
  7. Don't waste your time searching large lists of hits. If what you are searching for is not at the top of the list, rephrase the search and try again, or add another key term.
Using Boolean and Other Logic (Note: logical operators typically have to be in all caps).

AND: Insert between words (Dogs AND Cats) to search for both terms.

OR: Insert between words (Dogs OR Cats) to search for either terms.

NOT: Insert between words (Dogs NOT Cats) to exclude terms.

* (Wildcard): Replace parts of words as prefix or suffix. "Commnui*" to search for suffix (e.g., "Commnui*" will return hits for "community, communication, communicative,"; "*pound" suffix to find "impound, compound, dog-pound," etc. More typically, if you do not remember a name completely you might search for (*spinner) with other key words to find PageSpinner.

"Phrase" Searches: Insert quotation marks around names, etc. ("Ivy Ledbetter Lee") to search for the terms as exact phrases not separate words.

+/–: In many search engines +/– are interchangeable with AND/NOT. Syntax: insert a space before the symbol, no space before the word (e.g., Dogs +Cats –Garfield).

Recommended Meta Search Engines

For More Information About Web Searching see:

  • Kent, M. L. (2001). Essential tips for searching the web. Public Relations Quarterly 46(1), 4–7.

  • Kent, M. L. (2000). Getting the most from your search engine. The Communication Teacher 15(1), 4–7.

    Search Engine Boolean Logic Phrase Truncation Case Sensitive Nested Other
    Google Automatic AND; no OR; for NOT use Yes "..." No No No "I'm Feeling Lucky" and "Cached" features
    IxQuick AND (or +), NOT (or ), AND NOT, ANDNOT Yes "..." Wildcards: use "*term" or "term*" Supports case sensitive searching Yes (terms) Opens links in new windows
    Mamma Automatic AND; use +/ for AND/NOT Yes "..." No No No Customizable and may search in phrase mode
    AltaVista AND (&), OR (|), AND NOT (!) Yes "..." No Yes Yes (terms) Customizable; may specify language and/or dates to search
    Yahoo use + for AND; for NOT; t: (title); u: (URL) Yes "..." Wildcards: use "*term" or "term*" No No Customizable; may specify Usenet, dates, etc.

    Boolean Logic refers to the use of AND, OR, NOT, etc. to limit searches.

    Phrase Searches instruct the search engines to search for the exact words enclosed in the quote marks.

    Truncation instructs search engines to search for prefixes or suffixes.

    Nested Searches allow for more complex searches.

    Try the Web search scavenger hunt!


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    Last updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2019