Search engines can help us instantly locate all kinds of information. However, it’s easy to get bogged down in irrelevant results. Learning some simple tricks can make your searches more effective and efficient.
The best way to refine a search is to use exact words or phrases. Enclosing keywords in quotation marks (‘ ‘) tells the search engine to only return results that contain that exact phrase word for word. This dramatically cuts down the number of results and makes them more relevant.
Another handy trick is to use the AND operator when searching for more than one keyword. This instructs the search engine to find pages that include both words or phrases and significantly narrows down the number of results. For example, search for “Tom Ford” AND “cars” will find all the results it can including both words and phrases. You can also search for specific words or phrases by enclosing them in double quotes (” “). Searching for these terms will only give you results that specifically mention the words in question, again significantly narrowing down the number of results.
Most subject databases also provide a range of useful filters to improve the precision of a search. These can be used before or after the search itself and can include things such as publication date, language, type of publication, and so on.
If you need to search for a particular variation of a word, you can do so by using the truncation function. This is usually represented by a wildcard symbol such as the asterisk or *, and you can find out more about this from the help text for your subject database.
The final method we’ll discuss in this section is the minus symbol, or the negation operator. This instructs the search engine to exclude results that have the specified word or phrase. For example, if you’re searching for information about Joe Bloggs and jeans, you can use a search string such as “Joe Bloggs” -jeans to ensure that only the results you want to see appear in the list.
These techniques can be used with any search engine, and are incredibly helpful for narrowing down a large set of unwieldy results. While they may seem complex, once you learn them they’ll become as quick and easy to use as any other kind of search. So give them a try and see how they work for you! Alternatively, why not take a look at the video on Searching databases?