searching for information on the Web, do you just fire up Google [www.google.com]
and type in a word or two? You’re not alone.
Despite Google’s effectiveness as an Internet search tool, you
probably could be a lot more productive in finding the information you’re
after, using Google or any other search site. So says Paul Krupin, and
Krupin, who has worked for the past 24 years as a researcher for the
U.S. Department of Energy, wants to help others be better Web searchers.
He has written a series of new books titled Magic Search Words [www.magicsearchwords.com],
and he’s in the process of launching a pay Web site that automates
Web searching using his ideas [www.searchwordpro.com].
The books deal with Web searching involving narrow topics, including
jobs, scholarships, and health, and he’s currently writing another
about how to most productively search for information at work. He shared
with me his best ideas.
One simple trick is to add search words to your search string, words
that will more finely hone your results. Use words that are relevant
to the information you’re seeking and that will eliminate irrelevant
If you’re searching for tips to help you improve office productivity
by eliminating unnecessary paperwork, for instance, don’t just
type: office productivity. Doing this in Google gives you nearly 2 million
Web pages. Instead you could type: office productivity tips paperwork.
This brings up about 8,000 pages.
You can further refine your results by enclosing multiword terms within
quotation marks. With the above example, the search string would be:
“office productivity” tips paperwork. This narrows the results
to 200 pages. Since Google does an excellent job of placing the most
relevant sites up front, all you typically would need to do is peruse
the first screen or first few screens of these results.
Another simple trick is to use the minus sign to further eliminate irrelevant
pages. You can place it in front of words related to subject matter
you’re not interested in or in front of types of Web sites you’re
not interested in.
You can eliminate most commercial Web sites, for instance, from your
search results by adding “-.com” (without the quotation
marks) to your search string. Instead of pages from advertising-laden
dot-coms, you’ll turn up pages from .org, .edu, and .gov sites,
which may provide more reliable information.
If you want to home in on sites strictly from, say, government agencies,
you can add “.gov” (without the quotation marks) to your
Another trick is to experiment with different words in your search string,
adding some and eliminating others, or switching the positions of the
same words, then perusing the results.
Since different search sites use different search technologies and bring
back different results, you can also try typing in the same search string
at other search sites, including such promising new search sites as
and Vivisimo [www.vivisimo.com].
If you’re looking for just the most current information, you can
experiment with adding the current year to your search string.
Some information, from the so-called “invisible Web,” is
hidden within databases at Web sites and is accessible only by using
that site’s search tool. One way to find this information is to
include the term “searchable online database” (with the
quotation marks) in your Google search string, then use the site’s
own search engine.
If you’re looking for information at an individual site but that
site doesn’t have its own search tool, with Google, you can add
to your search string “site:” (without the quotation marks)
followed by the site’s URL (address). Make sure you don’t
skip a space between site: and the site’s address.
Regardless of how you turn up information on the Web, exercise care
in evaluating it, says Krupin. Try to determine the source of the information,
and ask yourself if this source appears qualified and unbiased or is
instead just trying to sell you something. Also, try to verify the information
by finding at least one other reputable source that provides the same
or similar information, particularly if the information diverges from
your current understanding or involves a critical business, health,
or family decision.
“The Web is now the library of humanity, similar to the ancient
library of Alexandria, housing mankind’s cumulative knowledge,”
waxes Krupin, a bit too optimistically. Much knowledge still resides
elsewhere, in books and other publications, not yet online, and in heads,
not yet published.
But a great deal of valuable information can be found on the Web, if
you know how to look for it.
Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight
Talk About the Information Superhighway.
He can be reached at email@example.com