Web Searching, Sleuthing and Sifting
Power Search Techniques (Boolean and Field Searching)
Why "Power Search?" | What is Boolean Searching? | What are "Proximity Operators"? | What is Field Searching? | For More Information, take another online course! | For More Information | Assignments
This week we are going to explore Power Search Techniques. There are many excellent guides describing Boolean logic and charts showing the features available at the "major" search engines, which you should consult for more details (please see the section For More Information). Here, our purpose is a brief overview of possible techniques. Please note that while most of the major search engines we have been using allow some advanced search capabilities, they appear or are implemented differently.
And of course, we'll be going on another Info Quest.
Many advanced web searching techniques are old friends of folks used to searching more traditional databases, such as those containing bibliographic citations or references to journal articles. Some techniques are unique to the web because of its media and structure.
all advanced techniques are enabled by all search engines! Consult one
or two of the charts in For More Information and/or read the Help documentation
of the search facility you are using.
means find web pages in which both terms occur
Search phrase: cats or dogs
means find web pages in which either term occurs
Search phrase: cats not dogs
means find web pages in which the term cat appears but not dog
Most web search engines have the capability to implement these basic Boolean operators but may present them in a different way. You will almost always need to go to an "Advanced" search function to use true Boolean operators; however, you may be able to search using implied Boolean using the symbols + (must include) or -(exclude) from the "Basic" search interface.
Examples of usage:
Special Note: these Boolean operators are
often presented as options like "include all the words," (AND operator)
"include any of the words," (OR operator) and "exclude" (NOT
Another special note: while you might expect that search engines default to an implied AND (which means if you enter 2 search terms it returns documents in which they BOTH occur) in fact this is not always the case -- some search engines default to the initially unhelpful OR (it returns documents in which EITHER occur)
Examples of usage:
Special Note: the ADJ Boolean operator is often disguised as the option "exact phrase."
Field searching is so wonderful because you can specify where to look in the web document; for example, in the title only, or the url fields. Field searching allows you to be very specific about where you want you terms to occur and hence is a very powerful tool.
Using Search templates:
I'm a big fan of advanced search templates such as the ones used by Hotbot (http://www.hotbot.com) and Snap (http://www.snap.com). These templates use many Boolean and field searching techniques without having to learn the syntax of yet another search engine.
Diane Kovacs, well known Internet Trainer and Writer teaches Web or email based classes on a variety of topics including a class in advanced searching techniques in the Spring. For more information and registration information, go to http://www.kovacs.com/online.html. The class, called "Finding Real Information on the Web: Advanced Web Searching Tips and Techniques," may also be taken any time in email format.
Excellent explanation of Boolean logic with diagrams.
Contains a comprehensive chart describing information needs and possible Web-based resources to use.
Contains general information on how to search; also information on selected search engines and a neat "practice" facility.
Series of 12 tutorials focusing on 48 topics containing lots of tips on "Power Searching."
Contains in-depth charts describing information needs and which search facilities to use. Ms. Cohen's work is always up to date, fresh and comprehensive! Excellent.
"NetLearn is a directory of resources for learning and teaching Internet skills, including resources for WWW, email and other formats. Links with descriptive and evaluative annotations are provided, covering: learning, teaching, navigating and providing information on the Internet; learning HTML; demographics; special needs and foreign language resources. " Well organized and comprehensive.
This table contains useful information about major search engines such as database sizes, Boolean and other search options and miscellaneous special features.
How to maximize searches by learning a few simple applications of + and - (plus more!). Highly readable and techniques are effective.
1. Please answer the following questions with site address and actual answer.
Last updated: February 22, 2019; Links checked: February 22, 2019
Copyright © 1998-2019, Simone Leroy, Director of Learning Technologies, MIA
Syllabus | Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 2a | Lesson 3 | Lesson 5 | Lesson 5a | Lesson 6