12 Oct 10 Search engines – effective usage
Desk research involves going through humongous amount of information available on the internet. The first step involves using search engines effectively to get that kind of information. To get relevant and effective results, certain search methodologies can be used that can help narrow down the scope of information. For eg. if information has to be looked up on the internet for “Telecom Software producers,” it sounds difficult. First of all, if there is no technical expertise it gets very difficult understanding, what telecom software means. Before starting random search on the Internet it is very important to decide how to search and map out a path which will help get the required result. Mentioned below are a few methodologies which if put into practice while using search engines can yield relevant and useful results.
Keywords hold the key
First step is the usage of correct and appropriate keywords or search syntax. When writing search syntax using quotation marks (phrase search), Boolean commands and correct order helps narrow down the results. For eg: If you are looking for pharmaceutical labs in India in Mumbai and not in Pune then a good and well framed keyword can be “pharmaceutical labs” OR “pharma laboratories” AND “Mumbai” AND NOT “Pune”
Another technique which can result in better results is using plurals, alternate spellings and synonyms. For eg. “Elevator” is used in USA while “lift” is used in the UK. If the region from which information is required is known then usage of appropriate keywords helps cut down irrelevant information.
Specific domain search
Domain search limits your search to a specific domain and is also very helpful in narrowing down the search criteria, resulting in better and more relevant results. For eg. if you want labour statistics of Alabama from a US government site, then using the following search term will ensure that the results which are provided are from government websites. “labor statistics alabama domain:gov”
A few US domains are:
- .com = a commercial business
- .edu = an educational institution
- .gov = a governmental institution
- .org = a non-profit organization
- .mil = a military site
- .net = a network site
Various countries have their own domains and using domain search when looking for country specific or geography specific information is very useful. Here is a link to all country domains.
Typify your search
Another very helpful tool for all researchers is “filetype.” Many a times the information required has to be of a certain filetype/file format or rather we know that the information is available as a certain filetype/file format. When typing in keywords we can specify the filetype/file format we want and hence the results thrown up will be the type we require.
The syntax to be used is filetype:pdf or filetype:ppt. For eg., if we are looking for information on supply chain management in pdf format, the syntax should be: supply chain management filetype:pdf. The following screenshot shows that all results are for the pdf filetype.
There is search world beyond Google
One of the major pitfalls for us is that we limit our search to Google. Other search engines also give news which might not be covered in Google. The best way to search is to use a Meta Search engine, which crawls though all the major search engines. In a Meta Search engine, we can also see which search engines shows results for the specified query. Example: Dogpile. In the following picture, you can see that one of the results was shown only in Yahoo.
The best place where almost all of these methodologies are put together is the advanced search feature for search engines. For each and every search engines, advance search options are provided which really help in searching better.
These are a few tips that can be used to make search more effective and refined. These methods will surely help to cut down all the extraneous information and help get focused and useful results. This all, added to the technical expertise possessed by the person searching for information, yields quicker and better results. These tips do help out but having a good background and knowledge about the subject leads to more precise results. Subject matter expertise combined with good knowledge of Internet and search engines techniques makes searching the net for required information an easy task.