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    Windweaver's  Search Guide
     Using the Best Directories and Search Engines

   Which search tool to use and for what purposes
   How to choose your search terms and syntax
   (See also SEARCHHELPER page for Net newbies)

     NOTE: Search engine guide will be updated in
     October 2006 - Google and AlltheWeb will be added

   Preliminary Searching Hints
   Choosing Search Terms and Syntax
   Which Search Engine or Directory to use?

   HOW TO USE....
   AltaVista  (Simple and Advanced Search)

NOTE: This article has not been updated since 2002. In 2006,
we will add other search engines. Meanwhile, you can read about more


1. Choose a search engine, directory or library in accordance with
the kind of search you are doing and the kind of results you are seeking.

2. Consider: Are you looking for a Web site? Information that might
be contained within Usenet? Academic articles that may only be
retrievable with gopher?

3. Determine your aims: Do you want a specific hard-to-find document
on an esoteric subject, or general information on a broader topic? Do
you need to search the entire Web, or is what you are seeking likely
to be found on a number of sites, or only the most popular sites?

4. In making your choice, determine whether the information you are
looking for is likely to be in a page's title or first paragraph, or buried
deeper within the document or site.

5. Use a search engine's advanced features, if available, and read the
help files if you are unclear about its searching procedure.


1. Enter synonyms, alternate spellings and alternate forms (e.g. dance,
dancing, dances) for your search terms.

2. Enter all the singular or unique terms which are likely to be included
in the document or site you are seeking.

3. Avoid using very common terms (e.g. Internet, people) which
may lead to a preponderance of irrelevant search results.

4. Determine how your search engine uses capitals and plurals, and
enter capitalized or plural forms of your search words if appropriate.

5. Use a phrase or proper name if possible to narrow your search
and therefore retrieve more relevant results (unless you want a large
number of results)

6. Use multiple operators (e.g. AND, NOT) if a search engine
allows you to do so.

7. If you receive too many results, refine and improve your search.
(After perusing the results, you may become aware of how to use
NOT - e.g. Boston AND hockey AND NOT Bruins)

8. Pay attention to proper spacing and punctuation in your search
syntax (i.e. no space when using + means +term not +  term)


Do you want....

to browse a subject area?
USE Yahoo, Lookmart or the Open Directory

to search Newsgroups?
USE Yahoo, Google Newsgroups,  AltaVista, HotBot

to include older gopher files in your search?
USE Webcrawler or Altavista

to search as much as the Web as possible?
USE Google or

to search every word on a site or in a document?
USE AltaVista,  or HotBot

to locate an obscure or hard-to-find document?
USE AltaVista,

to locate a fairly popular site or easy-to-find document?
USE Webcrawler or Yahoo

to retrieve a large number of results?
USE AltaVista or a metasearch engine such
as Savvy Search or Metacrawler

to retrieve few but relevant results?
USE Webcrawler

to search only titles, urls or keywords?
USE Webcrawler, Yahoo  OR  Alta Vista

to specify in what part of a site your search terms will occur
(including titles, urls and summaries)?
USE AltaVista (adv) or InfoSeek

to search reviewed and evaluated sites?
USE Looksmart's select directory)

See Windweaver's Search Tool Reviews for reviews and recommendations
of other search engines and directories not described here.


Directory: Yahoo
SIZE of database:  small
SEARCHES:  Web, Newsgroups
SCOPE: searches keywords only
RELEVANCE: not organized by relevance

SPECIAL FEATURES: numerous directories available;
has newsgroup searches; passes on searches to AltaVista

WHEN TO USE : browsing, subject categories, overviews of topic
     Yahoo has many specialized search sites and directories.

Use + before a word which must appear
Use - before a word which must NOT appear
Enclose phrases in double quotation marks ("this is a phrase")
Use wildcards * to specify a root and retrieve various word forms
(e.g. sing* will retrieve sing, sings, singing, singer - but also
singe, singular, singularity etc.)
To search within a title use t:word   (e.g. t:astronomy)
To search within a url, use u:word   (e.g. u:harvard)

CAPITALIZATION:  Capitalization doesn't matter.
ORDER: Combine search operators in this order: +  -  t:  u:  " "  *

Rather than type in your search terms, choose whether you want to
include all search terms (AND), only one of your search terms (OR)
or an exact phrase.

SEE ALSO Windweaver's Yahoo Review


See also our SEARCHHELPER page for Net newbies.
And visit Windweaver's online Net Search BOOKSTORE - 70+ Net search
resource books and directories. Secure ordering, discounts via!

NEXT:  Search syntax for AltaVista, Webcrawler


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