Search: How to Find What You Are Looking For (or 5 Tips for Better Search)

50% of all searches fail in a manner that the person doing the search recognizes as a failure. 


What is it that you are looking for, my dear?

A far more significant problem is that 50% of the searches believed to have succeeded failed, but the person doing the search simply doesn’t realize it.  As a result, that person uses information that is at best out of date but more often incorrect or just not the right data.  When the “bad” information is then used in a document or communication, there is a cascading effect that further propagates the incorrect information.

In an age where Information Overload costs the U.S. economy ca. $900 billion per annum, finding the right information has become far more critical.

To increase the odds that you will find what you are looking for, we’ve prepared five simple search tips that should result in better and more accurate results, regardless of where you are searching.

1.)    Boolean logic
Search engines typically use a form with a search box into which one types the search query.  To control the search results, use Boolean logic by typing AND or OR.  Many search engines including Google default to AND when processing search queries with two or more words.  To exclude words, use NOT (java NOT coffee, java -coffee).  For increased relevance, use NEAR (restaurants NEAR midtown Manhattan).

2.)    Options
Most search engines include options (on Google, these are found by clicking on Advanced Search).  Use options to narrow down the field you are searching.  Examples include file format (.ppt, .doc, .pdf, etc.) or Web site (

3.)    Search tools
When it comes to search, one size does not fit all.  Use a variety of search tools beyond Google.  Try search visualization tools such as Cluuz and KartOO on the Web and KVisu for behind the firewall.

4.)    Meta search engines
A meta search engine runs several searches simultaneously.  Tools that may be helpful include Clusty and Dogpile.

5.)    Archived (out-of-date) materials or nonexistent Web sites
The Wayback Machine on the Internet Archive is useful for both older versions of Web pages and sites that have disappeared over time.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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