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Quik Tip

Limit search results to specific document types by adding Google's filetype: prefix, followed by a 3-letter extension. proposal sample filetype:doc, for example, returns documents in Word format. Use PDF for Acrobat files; PPT for PowerPoint. Virus check before opening.
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Some Search Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

There's more to search success than simply typing a few words into a search engine. Here are a few points to keep in mind for your next search.

  • Choose the right tool for the job. It's not all about search engines! Choosing the appropriate research tool is half the battle. Know when to use a specialized resource such as telephone directory , a regional directory, or a reference work like those you'd find at the Library.

  • Familiarize yourself with search engine syntax. The search engines all differ in the rules they apply when processing your query. Did you know, for example, that Google limits queries to ten words? If you type more than ten words, Google simply truncates your query, dropping excess words off the end. That's one good reason to plan your search strategy carefully! Check search engine sites for a link labelled Help or Search Tips for syntax information, and see our search basics page and feature comparison chart for more on this important success factor.

  • Think outside the box when specifying your search term. It's very much a trial and error process. Think about how the information you're after might be indexed. If you did not get results with one word, try a synonym. If, for example, you're seeking information about sailing, you might want to try both the words sailing and yachting. If a word has alternate spellings, specify it both ways (colour and color, for example).

  • Understand results ranking. Search engines use complicated formulas to order results. Most search engines evaluate web documents against your keywords, ordering results by relevance. They do this by assigning a numeric score to each hit, based on how closely it matches the specified term. They all use different criteria for arriving at this score. Some search engines also factor popularity with users into how they order results, and they measure this in different ways as well. Be aware that advertising may also influence results ranking.

  • Take advantage of collective human experience. Know when to tap into archived discussions. Look on the Web for facts; ask in discussion groups for opinions. Turn to newsgroups, mailing lists, or web forums for solutions to problems or for answers to obscure or esoteric questions. Google maintains a handy searchable archive of online discussions. Chances are, someone's already answered your question!

  • Let someone else do the work. Sometimes, the fastest way to the information you're after is to locate a jumplist. Specialized collections of links on one subject or theme, jumplists are the hidden treasure of the Web. To find them, try adding words like links, resources, collection, or list to your search term. Yahoo can be useful for finding jumplists, which you can locate by selecting "Web Directories" from many of its menus and sub-menus. The Teoma search engine is also useful in locating jumplists, which it calls "expert link collections."

  • Sign up for our popular Internet research course to find out more. Among the many topics covered, you'll learn some little-known but potent Google techniques for ferreting out the Net's most stubbornly elusive information!

To search basics ...