Web Search Tips

  • Tips for searching the internet.

Phrases within Quotation Marks

Putting a phrase in quotation marks means only those sites that contain that exact phrase will be retrieved by the search engine. example: "minnesota vikings"

Capital Letters

Most search engines retrieve both lower case and capitalized words if you type your request in lower case letters. Capitalizing proper names usually reduces the number of items retrieved. General dynamics will get different results than will general Dynamics in most search engines.

Boolean Operators

Most search engines have an advanced or power search mode that lets you combine terms in specific ways to increase the likelihood of finding what you are looking for. The following three terms used between search terms produce very different results:

AND narrows a search: monarch AND butterfly (retrieves only those sites that have both words)
OR broadens a search: cats OR kittens (retrieves sites that have either word)
AND NOT excludes a term from a search: pets AND NOT dogs (retrieves sites about other kinds of pets, but not those that include the word dog)
+ A plus sign adjacent to a word means the word must be included in the results: +monarch +butterfly
- A minus sign adjacent to a word means the word must be excluded from the results: +pets -dogs


* or ! An asterisk or exclamation point at the end of a string of letters (check the help page of the specific search engine for which it uses) means the search will find all words beginning with that string of letters. institut* retrieves institute, institution, institutional. Be careful about truncating a word with the * that could have lots of endings in foreign languages. It might be a good idea to limit the language of a search if you truncate.


Most search engines allow you to specify the language to which you wish to limit your search. Some also provide English translation for foreign language Web pages.


Most search engines allow you to limit your search to a range of dates, which can help reduce the number of “hits.”

Advanced Searching

For more sophistication, use the advanced search option of your favorite search engines.

Google Search Information

Explore the links listed on the right to become more adept at using one of the most popular and powerful search engines.