It is not an unusual experience for most people to search for information on the net and finally being forced to give up searching after getting 1,600,000+ responses. This, however, wouldn’t happen so often if one knows HOW to approach the searching. Because searching is not only writing randomly what you need to find and then click “search” – searching is a process and like every other process it involves certain strategy that has to followed.Thus, here w e are r eferring to searching as a process and we are going to embark a little bit on a searching strategy that can be employed in order for successful outcomes to be achieved. Here are the steps we have identified to be a part of a successful searching strategy:

Step 1. You have to carefully analyze the topic

First, think of distinctive words and phrases. If you can’t think of any distinctive words and phrases with clear, not-confusing meaning, you can think of a broader topic that might include those words and phrases, a narrower topic, synonyms, equivalents etc. If you don’t know much about your topic, you maybe need to think deeply about it before starting the searching process.

Step 2. Choose
the right search engine

Choosing the right search engine may seem an easy task but sometimes it can really save you a lot of trouble and time if you know exactly how the search engine functions and how you can use it to your advantage.




The reason for this is that search engines are actually not the same. Although they may use similar software the results you get in one engine are never the same as the results you will get in another engine. This is because the size, speed and content of different search engines are never the same. Search engines use software programs to find the match between the keywords you have typed and indexes of the search engine. Then the matches found are presented in some form of ranking. But search engines use different ranking schemes as well as different search options. Thus, if you are unable to find what you are looking for in one search engine, just try with another. Or, you can look in subject directories and specialized databases. Here is a detailed list with different search engines and search tutorials you may consult when deciding where exactly to search:

When using any search engine you should keep in mind to enclose the word or phrase you type in quotation marks “”. This will help you get fewer results. You can also use search engines with Boolean OR (e.g. Google), or even full Boolean logic with parentheses (an option usually available on the advanced search page of search engines). Most search engines offer the Implied Boolean and most advanced search pages offer the Boolean logic using search form terminology. For detailed information on Boolean logic see section 4.

Step 3. Look for
subject directories

Subject directories are different from search engines in that they use human editors to create/select the content and filter the indexes entering the respective directory. The content in directories is organized according to certain standards set by the editors. Thus, the subject directories are rather smaller than the search engines. But, on the other hand, the quality of the content is higher in subject directories exactly because of the human oversight maintained. Subject directories are suitable for more general searches and for finding information on more popular and commercial topics. If you just go to a directory and browse through the categories in a particular field of interest it will then be easier for you to conduct the actual search because you will already know what exactly you are searching for. There are different types of subject directories: general directories, academic directories, commercial directories, portals and vortals. Some of the biggest portals are MSN and Yahoo, also having their search engines. Other subject directories are:,,

Vortals (mentioned above as a type of subject directory) are actually forms of specialized databases devoted to a single subject. These are usually created by specialists who have interests and deep knowledge in the respective field (professors, researchers etc.). These specialized databases are most suitable when searching for information on a highly specific, concrete topic. One very famous example is – Internet Movie Database.

Last but not least, library gateways (another type of subject directories) can present another alternative for those of you who are looking for high quality information websites. In library gateways specialists (usually librarians) have reviewed and assembled all the information sites by subject.

Step 4. Try to use
Boolean logic

When searching the Internet (via search engines) one can use the rules for searching computer databases since the Internet is a vast computer database. These rules are based on the principles of Boolean logic (named after the mathematician George Boole). As the very name suggests Boolean searching is based on constructing logical relationships among the terms searched. These logical relationships are being constructed with the help of logical operators: OR, AND, NOT.

Types of Boolean searching on the Internet

- Full Boolean logic with the use of logical operators – there are only a few search engines that offer the use of this method. Most search engines provide information in their help pages on what kind of searching you can do. Don’t forget to type the Boolean operators in capital letters. Here are the most common and useful ways in which you can make use of the operators:

OR logic: retrieve records in which at least one of the search terms is present.

cats OR dogs

This way you search for synonymous terms or concepts. So, finally, you get records containing the first term + records containing the second term + records containing both terms.

The more terms we combine, the more results you will get.



AND logic: you retrieve only records in which both of the terms are present

cats AND dogs

The more terms you combine in a search with AND logic, the fewer results you will retrieve.



NOT logic: you retrieve records in which only one of the terms is present.

cats NOT dogs

You should be careful when using the NOT logic because this way you can exclude from your search documents that contain important information. Important documents about cats may, for example, contain the word dogs and by avoiding these you exclude these documents from your search.



AND and OR logic can also be applied in combination. In this case you have to surround the OR words with parentheses so that the search engine can process the two related terms as a unit, e.g. psychology AND (adolescents OR teenagers).

- Implied Boolean logic with keywords searching – here Boolean operators are not used. Instead, symbols are used to represent the Boolean operators. Even the absence of a symbol is meaningful and the space usually is taken to stand for AND logic. Implied Boolean logic is very common in search engines. For NOT logic the symbol “-” is used and for OR logic you should use either the OR itself (as in Full Boolean logic) or search form terminology.

- Boolean logic using search form terminology – many search engines have an “advanced search menu” where you can fill in a search form and choose among different options to help you. The Boolean operators are expressed by means of different suitable terminology which explain the action you want to perform, e.g. OR – any of the words/at least one of the words/ should contain the words.