This material has been developed to accompany:

Basic Search Strategy: The Ten Steps




The following list provides a guideline for you to follow in formulating search requests, viewing search results, and modifying search results. These procedures can be followed for virtually any search request, from the simplest to the most complicated. For some search requests, you may not want or need to go through a formal search strategy. If you want to save time in the long run, however, it's a good idea to follow a strategy, especially when you're new to a particular search engine.

A basic search strategy can help you get used to each search engine's features and how they are expressed in the search query. Following the 10 steps will also ensure good results if your search is multifaceted and you want to get the most relevant results.

The 10 steps are as follows:

  1. Identify the important concepts of your search.
  2. Choose the keywords that describe these concepts.
  3. Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included.
  4. Determine which search features may apply, including truncation, proximity operators, Boolean operators, and so forth..
  5. Choose a search engine.
  6. Read the search instructions on the search engine's home page. Look for sections entitled "Help," "Advanced Search," "Frequently Asked Questions," and so forth.
  7. Create a search expression, using syntax, which is appropriate for the search engine.
  8. Evaluate the results. How many hits were returned? Were the results relevant to your query?
  9. Modify your search if needed. Go back to steps 2-4 and revise your query accordingly.
  10. Try the same search in a different search engine, following steps 5-9 above.

Visit Searching and Researching on the Internet and the WWW for more information about using the Internet for doing research and finding what you need.

This material has been developed to accompany: by Ernest Ackermann and Karen Hartman, and published by Franklin, Beedle and Associates, Incorporated, Wilsonville OR.

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Ernest Ackermann Department of Computer Science, Mary Washington College, University of Mary Washington