Search Engine Tips

Boolean Searching: Using “AND,” “OR,” or “NOT” to limit your searches

  • "AND" narrows a search. Example: women AND fashion
  • "OR" broadens a search. Example: cars OR automobiles
  • "NOT" narrows a search further by eliminating words. Example: insurance NOT automobile

Generally you will capitalize the boolean search terms AND, OR, or NOT so that the search engine knows you are not looking for those words but rather the word(s) preceding or following them.

Wildcard *: The star * indicates that you are looking for any word.

  • Example: barak * obama would result in the president's middle name.

“A phrase”: Putting a phrase of words in quotes allows the search engine to search for them as an exact phrase rather than individual words.

  • Example: “global warming” “american medical association”

+ Sign: In some search engines placing the + sign before a word indicates to the search engine that that word must be found in the resulting web pages found. This is sometimes referred to as search math.

  • Example: +Indianapolis +motor +speedway
  • Notice that there is no space between the +sign and the word that follows it, but there is a space between the words themselves.
  • The +sign works the same way as “AND.”

- Sign: Putting a minus – sign in front of a word tells the search engine to omit it from the search. This is sometimes referred to as search math.

  • Example: clowns –rodeo saturn –planet bass -music
  • Notice that there is no space between the -sign and the word that follows it, but there is a space between the words themselves.
  • The –sign works the same way as “NOT.”

| Pipe: The pipe character helps you fine tune your search. By placing a pipe character between two keywords or search terms tells the search engine to search for the first term and then search for the second term within the first term’s hits (web pages).

  • Example: saturn|planet saturn|car

Remember the follower general tips as you perform searches:

  • You may use a combination of techniques to perform a search such as “endangered species” –birds
  • Type your keywords in lower case. Most search engines are no longer case sensitive, but to be on the safe side, type in lower case. If you typed your keyword with capital letters in a case sensitive search engine, then it would only search your keyword where it appeared with capital letters such as “Global Warming.” In lower case, the search engine will look for the keyword in lower or upper case. Google is not case sensitive, thus it would look for the following in the same manner: George Washington, george Washington, and GEorGe WasHIngTOn.
  • Always use the ‘Help’ or ‘FAQ’ page of any search engine to find out about its particular search strategies or rules.
  • It is wise to use more than one search engine to do extensive research, because each searches in a different way and will come up with different results. Try:



Search Tips Specific to Google

~ Tilde: Use the tilde in front of your keyword if you want the search engine to search not only your keyword but its synonyms as well.

  • Example: ~fast food

Definitions: In the search window put define:keyword to see definitions of the word.

  • Example: define:porous
  • Note that there are no spaces between words and colon.
  • Normally you will get a list of definitions and their sources.

Related search: Use the related search when you are searching for web pages similar in content.

  • Example: related:www.cnn.com
  • This works like the ‘similar pages’ hyperlink in your list of hits found by the search engine.

Domain search: Google allows you to search within a website for a specific term. Use the search term/keyword followed by the word ‘site’ and then a colon followed by the domain address.

  • Example: housing site:www.bsu.edu
  • This is very helpful if you are trying to find a specific item within an information rich website.

Site search: This is very similar to the domain search where you are trying to find specific pages at specific sites.

  • Example: dolphins site:www.indianapoliszoo.com

Link: Google allows you to perform a link search to determine who is linking to any web page.

  • Example: link:http://rc.k12.in.us
  • This can be useful if you are trying to determine the validity of a website.

intitle or allintitle: Combining these with keywords will indicate to the search engine that it is looking for web pages where the word(s) appear in the title of that page.

  • Example: intitle:hemingway intitle:Apollo allintitle:siberian tiger
  • Note that there is no space between the colon and your keyword.
  • This is a useful tool considering that if your keyword was in the title of the webpage, then it stands to reason that the webpage will probably be about that keyword.

inurl or allinurl: This will allow you to find pages where search terms appear in the url.

  • Example: inurl:zoo allinurl:siberian tiger

Filetype: Google allows you to restrict your search to specific filetypes.

  • Example: “digital camera” filetype:pdf This would help you find the owners manual for a digital camera.
  • “test-taking preparation” filetype:ppt You want to find a powerpoint about ways to prepare for taking a test.
  • holocaust filetype:mov Allows you to find a movie about the holocaust.
  • “n.y. museum of art” filetype:QuickTime VR This would allow you to find a virtual tour of the museum.
  • Hurricanes filetype:xls Allows you to locate tables of data on hurricanes such as their frequency, strength, location, etc.
  • Check out Google for a full list of filetypes that can be searched.