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Search Strategies

What's a search strategy?
How do I use Boolean logic in my search?
What tutorials are available for students to learn search strategies?

searchDeveloping a Search Strategy

When using search tools, a good plan can save you time. Read Developing a Search Strategy to refine your search question and Buddy Project Searching for an overview of the search process.
Begin by creating a concept map or another type of visual planning guide. This plan could include your central topic or problem, a word list, and a set of required information. Your central topic or problem may have many components. What type of information are you seeking (i.e., ideas, facts, opinions, options)? What form will this information take (i.e., text, graphics, charts)? Your word list should include key words, narrowing words, broadening words, and related words.
Also, be sure you think about that information you already know versus new information that you need. How can you eliminate background information sites and get to the point of your project?
Select the Keywords. Use words related to the type of information you seek.

Search in Cycles. View your search from different angles and approaches.

Use Boolean Logic. Broaden or narrow your search with operators. Keep in mind that different search tools use different operators. Many search engines assume that you're using the word AND between each word even if you don't enter it. Explore the following chart for more ideas:
Operator Description Example

use a keyword or idea, be specific


use a phrase, question, or string of ideas.

growing wildflower*

use capitals only for proper nouns. Avoid plurals.


AND, +, &

include both words

sand AND sculpture

OR, |

include either word

ice OR sand AND sculpture

NOT, -

exclude this word

ice NOT sand AND sculpture


all, but this word

weed AND NOT marijuana


similiar to this word, good for misspellings

NEAR sculpture


wildcard, include plurals and close matches


" "

looks for things in quotations

"statue of liberty"

use lowercase letters

upper case can limit your search

"statue of liberty"

title:, t:

to find the word in the title of the page

title: sand sculpture

url:, u:

the word in URL

u: eduscapes


Learning Search Strategies

Each tool has it's own set of search strategies. Be sure to read the "search help" or "advanced help" section of the website to be sure you're getting the most out of the resource. For example, some websites use quotation marks to cluster related words. Some websites use "and/or" while others use "+/- " to indicate a boolean search. Most search tools also have an option to search for a particular type of file such as a web page, image, sound, or video.
Search Guides. Use the following help guides to assist you in using search engines and Boolean logic.

Specific Search Tool Helpers General Tool Helpers
Google Tips, Google Advanced BuddyProject - search strategies
Alta Vista Tips, Alta Vista Advanced Search Terms and Syntax
HotBot Help Search Advice
Yahoo Help Search Strategies
Ask Jeeves Help

Sources for Students. The following tools and guides are for students.

Sources for Teachers. The following articles and resources are for teachers. 

Conduct a Search

Create a search plan. Apply search strategies and conduct a search. Discuss the results. Create a web page or handout providing students with a sample search.

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