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RELS-255: Research Methods

Searching the Web

In this section we will examine some of the features of web search engines that allow you to construct more effective searches, and we will look at ways of finding quality websites for your research. Critically evaluating the information you find on the Web is absolutely essential; anyone with access to a computer can make a website and content is usually unmonitored.

Effective Searches

In Section 2.2: Finding Articles, we looked at search techniques for constructing an effective search in a library database. You can apply some of these same search techniques when you are using a search engine - namely:

  • use search terms that specifically define your topic
  • connect keywords with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) if supported by the search engine
  • use quotation marks to indicate a phrase

Let's look at how Google supports Boolean operators (if you use a search engine other than Google, go there now and look at its Advanced Search screen). Here is Google's Advanced Search:

Google Advanced

  • All of the words is equivalent to "AND" (in other words, search terms are automatially "ANDed" together)
  • With the exact phrase is the phrase search
  • With at least one of the words is equivalent to "OR"
  • Without the words is equivalent to "NOT"

You can refer to the Best Search Tools Chart for a description on Boolean and other search options available in other popular search engines and Web search tools.