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There are two basic and simple rules for using a search engine:


be specific

add, multiply and subtract



The more specific you make your search the more likely you are to find what you want. Never be afraid to tell a search engine exactly what you want it to find, eg


If you want to find information about email viruses, search for 'email viruses', not viruses. Even better still you can say exactly what the real question is "Can I get a computer virus with my email". You will be surprised just how often this works.




When you want a search engine to find all of the words you enter and not just some of them, using the + symbol makes sure this happens, eg


You want to find pages which have references to both health and lessons. You could search this way:


+health +lessons


Only pages containing references to both will appear.


To be even more specific you could search for +health +lessons +K-12 (or what ever grade you wish)


This narrows it down even further to the level you want. Another example is:


+windows + 98 +viruses This means you would find only pages that have all of the three words on them


Lets say you were wanting to search for information about Otago Pinot Noir. If you typed in Pinot Noir only, the chances are you will get too many pages. Typing in + Pinot Noir + New Zealand +Otago will really narrow the field down.


In summary, typing in all the main words you want to appear on the page, along with the + symbol, will work well most of the time.




You want information about your operating system Windows 2000 but keep getting dozens of pages relating to all Windows systems. You could type in: windows -98 -3.1 -95.


No matter what your search, using the - symbol allows you to narrow down your search to more specific things that are most relevant to your search.




This is the multiply part. You simply multiply the terms through a phrase by adding quotation marks, eg


If you were searching for information about the lift prices for skiing on Ruapehu and typed in Ruapehu +skiing +prices you would get all pages with reference to these things but there is no guarantee that these words would appear together or even close on the pages you get. To get over this problem use quotation marks for a phrase search, eg


"Ruapehu skiing prices" Now only pages having these words in this exact order will be returned.




When you get confident with plus, minus and multiply, then try combinations of the three for really specific search. Going back to our Otago Pinot example you could type in:


"Otago Pinot Noir" -"1998 vintage" -"1997 vintage" +"2000 vintage" +"1999 vintage"


This will bring up only pages relating to Otago Pinot Noir, eliminate the vintages you do not wish to know about and a have a good show of bringing up the 1999 and 2000 vintages you are particularly interested in. (This example is so specific that Yahoo brings up only two pages for this search and Google brings up three)




The above suggestions will work for most searches and are probably all the skills you your pupils will ever need. They work with nearly all search engines and indexes and can save hours of frustration when thousands of documents are returned by a search engine by just typing in one word.


Which search engine do we use? We use Google - now acknowledged as the most accurate - for our searches and certainly it is nearly always the fastest and least confusing of the hundreds of examples on the web. Google even has a filter you can activate to eliminate all objectionable sites. Ask Jeeves for Kids has a net nanny function as well and is a safe way for your students to search the web.




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