The Internet has made it easier for us to do research. But as you’ve probably discovered, a simple keyword or phrase can yield millions of results that often have nothing to do with your query. So how do you find what you need? The key is to tailor your search so that you spend less time in front of the computer.
When conducting a search, avoid wording it in the form of a question (unless you’re using, say, AskJeeves.com), and make keywords or phrases as specific as possible. This will reduce the number of irrelevant hits you get. Advanced queries also narrow the parameters of your query by using expressions such as “and,” “or,” and “not” (known as Boolean operators). And keep in mind that filters can block certain sites (such as those that are sexually explicit) from appearing in your results.
To get you started, let’s look at five popular search tools.
Power Search Tools
A search on Altavista.com yields Websites that closely match your query, as well as those that are closely related. In addition to the Advanced Search mechanism, the site also provides a Search Assistant that lets you select date ranges, a geographical location (global), or a particular Website for your search results. One tip for cutting down the number of unrelated results: Select the Language option, so that if you only want Spanish-language sites, that’s what you’ll get.
Pros: A helpful Search Assistant; Language option lets you further narrow your search
Bottom line: An excellent search engine, especially for advanced queries
Excite.com lets you view results from newswires, related Websites, or general directories. The results offer links to Findwhat.com and Excite’s Ask the Experts page. Excite does have one drawback: You can conduct an advanced search only after you’ve initiated a primary query. One way to advance your search is by using the plus (+) and minus (-) operators. The “+” should be placed in front of keywords that must be in your results, and the “-” should be placed in front of keywords that must not be in your results.
Pros: Offers query results in three formats
Cons: Duplicate search results
Bottom line: Good for general queries
Google.com lets you search more than a billion Websites. The advanced search tool lets you search specific or related Web pages and conduct special searches beyond the Google engine, including Macintosh-related Websites, government sites, and university and college Websites. The user-friendly engine provides links to other engines to compare the results. Google.com also has a function called I’m Feeling Lucky, which lets you view the Website of the first result in your query. And for even quicker searches, you can attach the toolbar to your browser.
Pros: Offers two versions of results4printable and e-mail. (Also offers link to get reprint permission for each query)
Bottom line: The best; excellent for obscure and advanced queries
Lycos.com delivers results that are broken down into popular sites (based on site traffic) and Websites that are most closely related to the search query. It also offers a link to another Lycos-owned search