Search Skills - The Big Four
A few tips that will quickly improve your Internet searches
These are the signs posted in our lab, as a visual reminder for all students. The Big Four signs.

Be Specific
“ baking apple pie” is better than baking.  Use long strings of words.  Try this:

  • Do a search for lincoln, look at your hits
  • Now do a search for abraham lincoln gettysburg address
  • Look at your hits.

Put Phrases In Quotes
“Ancient Rome” - Using quotes like the "ancient rome" example glues words together. When you do a search the search engine returns hits or pages that have the words you searched for anywhere in the webpage.  If you want the words to be next to each other or glued together, use quotes around them.  Be careful, the words you put in quotes must make sense as you read them, they cannot just be related but must  actually work together.  Ex: "lincoln abraham" does not make sense, "abraham lincoln" does make sense.  Try this:

  • Do a search for abraham lincoln gettysburg address
  • Now try "abraham lincoln" "gettysburg address"
  • You won't see a big difference in the number of hits but you should notice a difference in the quality of the hits.

Revise the Search
Try different words - Try a different approach, think of words that may have the same meaning. Try this:

  • Search for: cells science 7th grade
  • Now try: building blocks science 7th grade

Add or Subtract Search Items
+rome -hotels  Notice the + and - signs.  This means that you want rome but not any pages with the word hotel.  Too many tourist hits as you look for information.  You can add and subtract words. The + and - signs must be connected to the word, right next to the word, no space.  Try this whole string of words. Our object is to swim with the dolphins in Cancun.  Start simple so you can track the hits.

  • Search for dolphins
  • Search for dolphins -football
  • Search for dolphins -football -florida
  • Search for dolphins -football -florida +cancun

With this string you should get some good dolphin hits near Cancun, no dolphins near Florida and also no football Dolphins.

Here is another one to try:

  •  caesar
  •  julius caesar
  • “julius caesar”
  • “julius caesar” death
  • “julius caesar” assassination
  • “julius caesar” death assassination
  • “julius caesar” death assassination –shakespeare
  • “julius caesar” death assassination –shakespeare +brutus

Obviously, you don't have to go through each addition or words, this is done for demonstration. As you get better two things will happen.

  1. You will start with better search strings to begin with
  2. You will look at your hits and start subtracting or adding terms to make it better.

You notice that all the search strings are in lower case, that works best.


Search Engines Check out Noodle Tools

Anything Goes

Sorta Kid Safe

Teacher Sites