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Search engines are supposed to help you wade through the mounds of information that exist in cyberspace. Too often they provide only marginal assistance, displaying hundreds or thousands of irrelevant answers to your query. However, by using power search functions, you can get the most out of your searches. These features (also referred to as advanced search techniques) allow you to refine and control your searches to retrieve information that more closely matches your needs. Here are a few tips to help you narrow your search and reduce your frustration level: ..BL.-
Use Boolean operators: These include and, and not, or and parentheses. In most search engines, a plus sign (+) is equivalent to the Boolean logical operator and, indicating that the word following the plus sign must be in each of the search results. A negative or minus sign (-) is equivalent to the Boolean logical operator not and says that the results should not contain the word following the negative or minus sign. Parentheses group portions of Boolean queries together for more complicated searches. For instance, to locate documents that contain the word fruit and either the word banana or apple, try the following combination: fruit and (banana or apple).
Enter phrases instead of keywords: Avoid one-word searches, they can create hits that are much too large to handle. Instead, use words or phrases inside quotes to increase your chances of finding useful results. Remember, placing double quotation marks around a phrase forces your search engine to look for that exact group of words. So, entering “San Francisco” will lead you to the city by the Bay, whereas San Francisco without quotes could return San Diego, San Mateo or even San Juan.
Use wildcards: Attach an asterisk (*) behind the key word in the search to broaden your results. Enter flower* to obtain documents containing the terms flower, flowers, flowering, flowered, flowerpot, flowery, and any foreign language words that may apply. Wildcards are also helpful if you’re searching for words that may have different endings. Enter dog* rather than dog if it could be plural.
Refer to Search Engine’s Power Search Form: Lycos (www.lycos.com), Excite (www.excite.com), HotBot (www.hotbot.com) and AltaVista (www.altavista.digital.com) have customized forms to help you refine your search. These forms allow you to enter an advanced search without the use of advanced query language. Scroll down to the bottom of your results page and give it a try!
Familiarize yourself with your search engine’s special features: No two search engines are exactly alike. As a first step, read the instructions or updates to ensure that you have the latest information. AltaVista, Excite and Lycos, for example, can search by domain and URL, and even find pages containing a link to a specified URL. AltaVista, the leader of the search engine pack, allows you to create a personalized preferences page that you can bookmark or use as your browser home page. HotBot has a useful feature that lets users limit their searches by time frame, thus minimizing the number of outdated Web pages your