This week I ran a workshop in Swansea on Internet search and new technologies. The first half of the day was taken up with new and recent developments and participants had the rest of the day to try out search techniques, tools, RSS, blogs and wikis for themselves. The group was made up of HE and health-care information professionals and they were all experienced, advanced searchers. It was hard work keeping up with them! At the end of the workshop they came up their own list of Top 10 Tips on Searching:

1. Live.com – http://www.live.com/. Formerly MSN search and totally revamped by Microsoft, this proved to be very popular and will probably be the main alternative to Google for the workshop participants. They particularly liked the scrolling image results page and Academic Live, which is given a separate mention later. There were some negative comments about Maps, but that area is still under development and worth revisiting now and again to see how it is progressing.

2. Graball – http://www.graball.com/. A tool for comparing the results of two search engines side by side.

3. Allwhois – http://allwhois.com/. Use this to find out who owns the domain name of a web site – an essential part of assessing the quality of information.

4. What does the plus (+) sign before a term do? The major search engines automatically search for all of your terms but they ignore common ‘stop’ words such as the, of, and. For example, if you are researching a quotation that contains stop words put it all inside double quote marks and precede each of the stop words with a plus sign. They will then be included in the search. In Google, use the plus sign before a word to stop Google stemming it and looking for variations.

5. Google’s numeric range search for anything involving a range of numbers – weights, distances, temperatures, prices. Separate the numbers at the start and end of the range with two full stops (no spaces), and include a unit of measurement (optional).

For example:

toblerone 1..5 kg

will look for sites selling massive Toberlone bars. (We assumed that one carves up the 4.5 kg bar with a chain saw!)

6. The link: and linkdomain: commands in Live.com to find pages that link to a known page or site. Use them to find pages that are similar to your known page, or to see who is linking to your site.

For example:

link:www.site.co.uk/library/ will only find pages that link to the specified page on a site.

linkdomain:site.co.uk will find pages that link to any page on the site

7. Remember to use filetype: and/or site: commands to focus your search. Filetype can be be used to limit your search to PDFs, PPT, Excel, Word documents etc. Statistics, for example, are often left in Excel spreadsheets. The site: command can be used to limit your search to a type of site, for example site:gov.uk for just UK government web sites, or to search just one site, for example site:statistics.gov.uk. Perfect for large sites that have poor navigation or useless internal search engines.

8. Alacra Industry Spotlights – http://www.alacrawiki.com/ and click on the Alacra Spotlights link. A collection of overviews on different industries highlighting key publications and resources for each sector. Ideal if you are new to a sector. Although this is a wiki, the Spotlights area is locked so that only Alacra can edit the pages.

9. Academic Live – http://academic.live.com/. “More reliable and trustworthy than Google”, and format options for bibliographic management packages such as RefWorks and EndNote. This event was held at Swansea University and there were links in each record in the results list that helped the searcher track down the full paper in the University’s own collection.

10. CrossEngine – http://www.crossengine.com/. Dozens of different search tools are grouped under tabs by type, for example web, video, audio, images, news, blogs, reference. Type in your search terms just once and then click on each search engine in turn to run the search. Similar to Trovando.it but more up to date and it has additional features such a file type search options for Google and Yahoo. Great for reminding you of alternative tools and different types of resources that you should be including in your strategy.

1 Comment on Top 10 Search Tips from Swansea

  1. Muse says:

    This information is very valuable. I learned a thng or two, and it will be most useful for my faculty and students when I pass it along. Thank you so much for sharing with us.