Searching the Web

Search Techniques

While searching using natural language is commonplace with online search interfaces, understanding traditional power search techniques will help demystify your search results.

Boolean Logic

image modified from source

Phrase Searching

Guarantees that a string of words will appear together and in the order typed.  Most search engines require quotation marks (“ ”).

-- Also known as the exact phrase in advanced search mode

Example: violence commited by children



It is common for search engines to search all words in the phrase, though not exact phrasing.

Truncation or Stemming

Searches for multiple forms of a word. Generally the astrisk * is used following the root of the word.

Example: Terror* -- terrorist, terrorists, terrorism, terrorizing

Google automatically searches with trucation/stemming. Adding an astrisk does NOT work to search multiple forms of a word. Use a ~ to find synonyms

Sometimes this can be too vague:

Example: nav* -- how can you use the tools above to create a better search? 

Search Tricks

Try domain specific searches

Identifying the source of the information will be more relevant & more specific

Shortcut -

Try format specific searches 

If you are looking for reports, PDF documents often have more content and are more focused

Shortcut - filetype:pdf


Try limiting the date range

If you are looking for current information, limit to the past week/month/year, or set range.

Utilize the Find or Search

 To quickly locate your search terms within a webpage or document.

Mac: Cmd+F

PC: Ctrl+F

Advanced Search

Look for the advanced search option of an internet search tool, this is where you will find the most powerful options.

Examples of popular sites:

Google Advanced Search

[here is an index of Google advanced search operators]


Yahoo Advanced Search


Bing Advanced Search (need to search first)