West Central Net Customer Support Quick Tips

Living with Internet Search Engines

Your report is due tomorrow; you've put it off all week.  It shouldn't be hard; after all you have Internet access and finding the information you need should be as good as done.

The computer starts up and you log on to the 'Net.  No problem... You jump into Alta Vista to start your research and then it happens... after typing in your subject, you are confronted with the first 10 of a whopping 978,074 pages that supposedly contain the information you are looking for.  After scanning a few pages, you realize it's not going to be easy to find the specific information you need.  What can you do?

The following tips will help your Internet searches hit closer to the mark:

1. Choose the right search engine. Search engines are like cars. They should reflect your style, meet your needs, and get you the results you are looking for.  Not all search engines "think" the same way.  Certain engines work better for some people, while other search engines work for the rest of us.

2. Become familiar with the search engine of your choice. Search engines like Alta Vista, Infoseek and Hot Bot have special search features that only work within their systems.

3. Use your search engine's Topic links. Most search engines will have Topic links for Arts and Entertainment, Business, Education and so forth. Using these categories may provide you with the critical link you are seeking.

4. Know where to search. Most search engines allow you to use bullets or check boxes to limit the realm of the search to the Web, Newsgroups or Usenet. Some also allow you to select company, continent, date, language and media type. If you are looking for an old Usenet News posting, select Usenet as the search realm instead of using the default Web search.

5. Know the codes. Most search engines support the following codes which help limit your search to the closest possible match to your criteria.
+ (the plus sign) Type this character in front of words within your search that must be included in the search results. (i.e., internet+WCN)

" (quotation marks) Place quotes around words that must go together. (i.e., "WCN internet access")

- (the minus sign) Type this character directly in front of words that you do not want included in the search. (i.e., +WCN -memory +internet)

| (the pipe sign) Use this character to limit the word that preceded it. (i.e., internet +WCN|ISP)

( ) Parentheses help you separate ideas within a Boolean search. (i.e., internet AND (WCN OR ISP)

6. Know the magic words. Just like "please" and "thank you" help you get more out of life, the words "link:", "url:", "site:", and the Boolean keywords: AND, OR, AND NOT will make your searches more specific and, with trained use, more productive.

link: Finds all links to and from a given site (link:www.wcc.net)

url: Finds all sites that contain the given string in the URL (url:http://www.wcc.net)

site: Finds all sites that end in the entered information (site:wcc.net)

AND Includes two ideas in the search (WCN AND internet)

OR Identifies sites that include either idea (WCN OR internet)

AND NOT Separates two ideas (WCN AND NOT internet)

7. Be flexible. If you don't find what you want using your favorite search engine, try other search engines. They may be tuned more to the subject you are trying to locate.

Once you have mastered the information listed in these seven tips, you will find that your use of search engines will become more productive, less frustrating and less time consuming.


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