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Research Process: Search Engine Strategies

This tutorial aims to help develop effective library research skills and critical thinking skills in all courses at Prince George's Community College.

Search Engine Strategies

Search Engine Strategies

Many search engines and directories have some similar characteristics and features. Grasping the basic search techniques of a few good search services will enhance your results. Taking the time to learn advanced search components and help screens of these tools will also improve your search outcome.

Keep your search strategy specific and focused, but be flexible in using synonymous terms and broaden your search when necessary. The following basic search strategies can be used with most search engines.

Keyword Searching

This type of search allows the searcher to enter or one or more terms that represent a concept to search.

African American psychology

The search will find sites with either one word, or both words in any order. Keyword searching yields many documents and it can be the least efficient way of finding information.

Keyword Phrase Search

Enclose a phrase or words in double quotations (" ") when exact word order is required. This type of search is one of the most efficient and effective ways to narrow down results. Using this type of search finds sites, titles, and names when all or exact parts are known.

"African American" 

"community college" 

These search strategies return sites and/or titles with these words.

"Tom Ridge"

This search returns sites with the name and/or documents with the name.

Implied Boolean Search

Use a plus (+) before a word or phrase that is to be included in a site, title, and/or document. Using a minus (-) in front of a word or phrase excludes these concepts from the site, title, and/or document. This type of search retrieves fewer results.

+education +"community college" +"African Americans"

This search will find sites and/or titles with education, community college, and African Americans

-tuition +education +"community college" +"African Americans"

This search will find sites and/or titles without tuition but will include education, community college, and African Americans.

Wild Card and Truncation

Use an asterisk (*) or question mark (?) to indicate missing letters if you are uncertain of the spelling or want a variant spelling of the word(s).

counterterrorism AND American*

counterterrorism AND American?