Internet search techniques

Using the internet for your studies may seem like a good idea, especially if you are trying to track down government papers or company information. However, internet search engines can produce many irrelevant results which you don’t have time to wade through. There are some techniques you can use to to get the most out of your web searches, read on to see our top internet search tips:


Plan your search

Did you know that you can use many of the same search techniques on the web that you’d use when searching a database?

  • plan your search strategy in advance
  • think about your key words
  • use Boolean searching – AND, OR and NOT (see Library Terms)


Google Search Techniques
(these work across most search engines)

  • You can search for the definition of a word by typing in define: and then your word/s, for example:

             define: nuclear

  • You can search for related or similar websites by typing in related: and then your known URL, for example:

              related: http://www.world-nuclear.org

              You can also click on the similar pages link on the Google results.

  • You can search for alternatives to a word (synonym); this can be useful to expand your search terms in an online system. Type in the tilda symbol ~ before the word you want an alternative for, for example:

           ~nuclear

  • You can search for a whole phrase by grouping the words with quotation marks . This can be useful if you are using commonly used words and stops the browser automatically (and invisibly) adding the word AND between your search terms, for example:

            “nuclear energy

  • You can search for particular types of websites and/or file types. By combining some of the techniques above with a request for the type of website you want information from and/or the kind of file you would like you can build a complex and highly specific web search. Use site: before the URL suffix to specify the kind of website, and filetype: before the kind of file you would like. See the examples below which also show how these can be combined:

             UK “nuclear power” site:.gov.uk

             UK “nuclear power” filetype:pdf

             UK “nuclear power” site:.gov.uk filetype:pdf

  • You can search for a word in the website title, type intitle: before the word you are looking for, for example:         

              intitle:enzyme

  • You might only want information within a certain date range. You can build this into your search by including your start and end years seperated with an ellipsis … three dots, for example:

          “Nobel prize winner” 19892007

  • You may also find it handy to convert currencies or measurements by expressing the search as in the examples below:

          1 euro in usd

          1 inch in cm

There are many more techniques that can be explored at the Google Help Centre or the Help section of your chosen search engine.

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