If You MUST...

If you MUST search the Internet instead of using a database, here's a few tips to make things go faster. 
  • Phrase Search with Quotation Marks  It doesn't work every time or with every search engine, but it keeps the search engine searching the PHRASE, and not just the words.  Its the difference between searching the words New, York, Drinking, and Age separately, and the phrase "New York Drinking Age".
  • Citation Search  If you find one great article and it has a bibliography, try searching for articles from within the bibliography for additional articles.
  • Add pdf or doc to your search  This is especially useful in Google Scholar, so that what returns is an actual document, not just a citation.  You can also try instead to add the words "article" or "journal".
  • Add Search Terms to Narrow or Expand your Topic Besides adding more keywords, think of your audience, a specific place, or name to narrow or expand your search.
  • Crtl +F  Can be Your Best Friend! You don't have to skim an article to find out there's only one paragraph with your search terms.  Use the Find shortcut to highlight where/how often your search terms appear within the article before you print/read.
  • Use the Advanced Search Features Just like databases, search engines have advanced features to use limit the amount of items you can find by type, date, source, or other delimitors.
  • Field Search In the Advanced Search features, most databases have a drop down box that allows you to limit your search to various specific fields in the record.  Read the search engine's help page to see all your options.
  • Boolean Search Okay--you've been taught this from fifth grade up, but generally no one uses them. However, using and, or, not, +, and - properly really can help you eliminate a lot of useless results.
  • Keyword Searching STOP typing in full sentences or questions into the search box!  Search engines seem smart, but simply play a matching game between your search string and the records they contain.
  • Using Synonyms  If you're not quite getting enough, or exactly what you want, try being flexible about your search terms--use synonyms to expand the search, but keep in on topic.  For example, if you're searching using the key phrase "school uniform", try "teenagers and clothing and school", substitute attire for clothing and teen for teenagers and see what happens.
  • Everything Changes When in doubt, always check out the About or Help pages for each search engine.  They may have even more suggestions or examples on how to search.

(These tips, for the most part, are taken from JEnnifer Bromann-Bender's article "Top Ten Rsearch and Online Searching Tips: are your Seniors College and Career Ready?" in SLC OCtober 2016, pp 26-7.)