10 Top tips for finding information on the Internet

1. Use the advanced search field

Almost all search engines have an “advanced search” area that provides Web surfers with more specific options. Here, you can search by an update date, look for Web sites with a specific domain like “.net,” or find Web sites in a preferred language.

2. Search with a phrase

To better help the search engine find what you’re looking for, offer a sequence of words in a specific order, using quotation marks around the phrase.

For instance, if you’re looking for information on the TV show Saturday Night Live, type “Saturday Night Live” into the search window. Without quotations on each end, a search engine will likely look for Web sites containing any of the words separately: Saturday, night, and live.

3. Be specific

If broad search words like car classifieds yield too many results, try more specific words such as used car classifieds, Mercedes classifieds, or London car classifieds.

4. Use alternative search words

If your keywords do not produce the results you want, try synonyms. Use a thesaurus like Roget’s Interactive Thesaurus or Merriam-Webster OnLine to find alternative search words. After all, a dog is also a canine, a pooch, a mutt, a hound, a pet, and man’s best friend!

5. Insert a plus or minus sign

This trick usually works in most search engines. Put a plus sign (+) in front of a word that must be found in the search window. For example, city guides + New York will help you narrow the search for city guides for New York only.

Similarly, place a minus sign (-) in front of a word that you do not want to appear in the search results. Typing in python -Monty will allow you to come up with results for snakes and not the British comedy troupe.

6. Just search the domain name

If you know the Web site that you want to search, but aren’t sure where the information is located within that site, you can tell your search engine to only search that domain. Enter what you’re looking for in the search field, followed by the word “site” and a colon, and then by the domain name.

For example, to find admission information for the University of Toronto, enter this: admission site:www.utoronto.ca.

7. Explore “best of” sites

If you’re after quality and not quantity, a few search engines provide access to hand-picked “Best of the Web” sites. One example is About.com.

8. Eliminate inappropriate content

If you prefer not to have adult sites included in your search results, activate SafeSearch on the Live Search settings page or on Google’s advanced search page. While not 100 percent accurate, this function will eliminate sites that contain explicit sexual content from the search results.

9. Save time with a search toolbar

If you do a lot of searching on the Web, consider downloading the free Windows Live Toolbar or Google Toolbar, which always sit near the top of your Internet Explorer browser window. This way, you do not need to leave the Web site you’re on to type in a new query.

10. Specialize your search engine

Lastly, keep in mind that there are many specialized search engines. Live Search, for example, has Live Search Images to search for pictures, MSN Shopping for shopping-related Web sites, and MSN News for published news articles from around the world. Many more specialty search engines can be found at Search Engine Watch.

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