Searching the Internet

Because of how many web pages there are, it is necessary to use a tool to find a specific page which matches your search parameters: a search engine.

To use a search engine, simply type keywords (search terms) into the appropriate field, press enter, and wait for the results. Before doing so, you need to determine which kind of words you need to enter in order to have the best chance of finding the information you seek.

The engine searches pages which contain these terms, and pages which are linked to from other pages using hyperlinks containing these terms. However, a search's results may be totally different if the keywords used are separated by spaces, surrounded by quote marks, or divided using a specific operator. Therefore, it might be necessary to refine your search using additional keywords and special operators (the table below summarises the types of operators and their effects).

If the search engine finds no results and returns a message saying something like "Your search did not match any documents", you will need to expand the search by using different terms which have to do with the subject you're looking for, or remove some of the ones used.

If the opposite happens — too many results — you will need to narrow the search by adding restrictions, such as requiring that results contain only all of the words request, or by excluding certain words.

Search operators

Type of searchRequest to enter
Proper nounType the name of the subject
PhraseType the phrase inside quote marks
"search phrase"
Containing all namesUse the AND or NEAR Boolean to limit the search:
+name1 +name2 +name3
Containing at least one of the namesUse the OR Boolean
name1 + name2 + name3
Not containing a wordUse the NOT Boolean
name1 + name2 -name3
Name with multiple
possible endings
Use truncating: name*
the search engine will look for pages containing the words:
name, named, names, nameless, etc.
  • If you type a word in lowercase letters, the engine

will return both lowercase and uppercase results.
  • If you type in uppercase letters, the engine

will return only uppercase results.

An example search

Let's say that you want to search for web pages about attorney generals on the search engine Google.

If you type:
attorney general
the engine will return all pages containing the word attorney and all pages containing the word general (as well as some containing both words, of course, but they'll be lost among all the other documents)

Now type:
attorney generals
This time, the engine only returns a limited number of pages, containing the word "attorney generals" (plural), as you have opted to leave out all the singular instances (attorney general)

By typing:
attorney general*
You now have the words attorney general and attorney generals, but there's a problem: The search is leaving out all the pages which write attorney general as:

  • attorney-general
  • attorneys general
  • attorney-generals
  • attorneys-general
  • attorneys/general
  • and so on.

The issue, then, is finding a way to have return all possible usages. To do so,
+attorney* +general*
You'll get all the pages which contain at least one word that begins with both of the roots attorney and general/.

CONCLUSION: An optimal search must be tailored to meet your expectations; it's usually different from a basic search, but it saves you time!


Boolean OperatorResult
+name1 +name2Returns documents containing both search terms
name1 + name2
name1 name2
Returns documents containing one (or both) of the two search terms
+name1 -name2Returns documents which do not contain the word that follows the operator -
name*Returns documents containing words similar to the search term
quote marksReturns documents containing the whole phrase
Essential (+)The symbol "+" indicates that a word must be found
Exclusion (-)The symbol "-" excludes a word from the search
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