Top 10 Tips for Using Search Engines and Directories
The Web is a tremendous repository of information.
However, in order to easily find useful information, you have to be able to use the two most common searching tools: search engines and directories.
Search engines and directories provide a link between you and databases that contain descriptions of Web resources. These sites allow you to create a targeted search for information by using one or more keywords or phrases to describe what you want to find.
How well a search engine or directory responds to your request depends on how well you make your request.
- Understand the differences between a search engine and a directory
In general, a search engine is a database of indexed Web content.
A directory also has an indexed database of Web content, but it is organized by category.
Most of the larger search engines and directories use a similar methods for finding content — an input box that allows a user to use one or more key words or key phrases to find specific Web resources
- Understand the general rules of the search engines and directories
Most search engines and directories feature an input box where you put in one or more keywords or key phrases that will determine the output of that search.
In addition to the input box, directories usually feature a tree-like category structure with the home page usually serving as the root index for the rest of the directory.Review Basic Techniques for Creating a Search Engine Query for insights into the general rules for performing a query on a search engine or directory database.
- Understand the rules of the specific search engine or directory
Each search engine or directory has a somewhat different method for accessing information or of structuring a search.
Most search engines and directories have a link on their home pages that leads to a detailed explanation of the rules for basic searches and the options for advanced searches.
- Describe what you are seeking
One of the easiest ways to do this is to put your search into the form of a question.
If you ask a detailed enough question, you should probably be able to pick one or more keywords, key phrases, or category names based on that question.
- Know the fundamentals of keywords and key phrases
Keywords are sensitive to case and suffixes. For example, the search command [airplane] will return entries containing the word airplane, airplanes, Airplane, or Airplanes.
The command [Airplanes] will only return entries containing the word Airplanes.
- Start your search with basic keywords or key phrases
In your initial search, use general keywords or key phrases.
For example, if you are searching for information about 747 aircraft flown by United Air Lines, start with keywords such as [airplane, airline, united] rather than [+747, +United].
Based on the result, either broaden or narrow subsequent searches.
- Know when and how to narrow a search
If the initial searches bring up too many options, narrow the search, by requiring that a keyword or key phrase be in the search results.
You can also include additional key words or key phrases, or use a more precise keyword or key phrase
If you have trouble coming up with initial keywords or key phrases, use a thesaurus to come up with some alternatives.
A good online resource is the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and thesaurus at http://www.m-w.com.
- Know when and how to broaden a search
If the initial searches bring up too options or if it turns up nothing at all, broaden the search by removing one or more restrictions on keywords or key phrases, by removing one or more keywords or key phrases from the query, or by using individual words from a key phrase rather than the entire phrase.
Another option is to use synonyms for one or more of the words used in the earlier search.
Once again, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and thesaurus at http://www.m-w.com can be a useful resource for finding synonyms..
Sometimes the problem can be in the search engine or directory.
No single search engine or directory covers all of the Web’s content, so try one or two alternative search resources if your first one does not work for you.
- Know when to quit searching
Sometimes you can’t find the information that you are seeking because it is either not on the Web or has not been indexed by the search engine and directory databases that you have used.
When you have made a reasonable effort to use your search engines or directories and you have reached this kind of dead end, it may be time to look beyond the Web for your information.
- Record the URLs of your favorite or most useful sites or pages
When you do find a page or a site that is particularly useful, use your browser’s bookmarking capability to record the URL.
By using the bookmarking function, it is easy to organize your favorite links for quick access.
Bookmarking also saves you the trouble of repeating a search to find the information at a later time.
Dr. Todd Curtis is the director of the AirSafe.com Foundation and an expert on the role using the Internet to educate the public about risk. This article was based on material from his new book, Parenting and the Internet (Speedbrake Publishing, 2007). For more information, visit www.speedbrake.com.
Source: Parenting and the Internet